Karen J. Wernli, PhD
Research interests and experience
- Cancer control: breast, colorectal, ovarian, and endometrial cancer; screening and surveillance; survivorship; biostatistics; mammography; mammographic breast density; medication use
- Health services & economics: comparative effectiveness research; health outcomes research
- Preventive medicine: cancer screening and surveillance
- Medication use & patient safety: NSAIDs; hormone replacement therapy; antidepressants; oral contraceptives
- International health: textile workers in China
Cancer screening is an important part of preventive medicine, but much is unknown about which screening methods work best for different groups of people. Karen Wernli is helping to narrow this gap through a rigorous research program in screening and prevention that spans colorectal, breast, and ovarian cancer.
An epidemiologist and 10-year veteran of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Dr. Wernli joined Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) in 2009 and began a three-year career development award in comparative effectiveness research in 2010. The award’s rich coursework, mentorship, and training opportunities support her goal of answering key questions related to cancer screening and diagnostics.
Dr. Wernli is a co-investigator of GHRI’s Colorectal Cancer Screening Registry, which is part of the National Cancer Institute’s Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens (PROSPR) program. Through PROSPR, she leads a study looking at colorectal cancer screening in real-world practice and how people’s use of it influences the tests’ effectiveness. She is also helping Group Health develop more effective prevention strategies—examining how patients use its online health risk assessment and comparing the effectiveness of interactive voice response to usual care on colorectal cancer screening rates.
Through the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC), Dr. Wernli leads a study using data on more than 800,000 women aged 40 to 79 to determine if mammographic breast density is linked to the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Dr. Wernli is also working with BCSC colleagues to shed light on individual characteristics that appear to affect how quickly women seek follow-up care after an abnormal mammogram. Her 2011 paper in the American Journal of Managed Care highlighted the need for effective strategies to help decrease anxiety among women who may be slow to follow up—and to minimize the number of late diagnoses.
In 2013, Dr. Wernli was awarded a three-year contract from Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to find out how well breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) works compared to mammography for regularly checking for new signs of breast cancer in women who have had the disease before. The project will also develop patient decision aids to help women and their doctors choose the surveillance method that is right for them.
Dr. Wernli serves as a reviewer for several journals, including the American Journal of Epidemiology and Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. A longtime member of the American Society for Preventive Oncology (ASPO), she was a recipient of the Prevent Cancer Foundation/ASPO Cancer Prevention Fellowship in 2009 and served as co-chair for the annual meeting workshop with their Young Investigators.
Wernli KJ, O’Meara E, Kerlikowske K, Miglioretti D, Muller CY, Onega T, Sprague B, Henderson L, Buist DS. Investigation of mammographic breast density as a risk factor for ovarian cancer. J Nat Cancer Inst. 2014 Jan 1;106(1):djt341. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt341. Epub 2013 Dec 5. PubMed
Wernli KJ, DeMartini WB, Ichikawa L, Lehman C, Onega TL, Kerlikowske K, Gellar BM, Hofmann M, Yankaskas BC; for the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Patterns of breast magnetic resonance imaging use in community practice. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Nov 18. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.11963. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
O'Meara ES, Zhu W, Hubbard RA, Braithwaite D, Kerlikowske K, Dittus KL, Geller B, Wernli KJ, Miglioretti DL. Mammographic screening interval in relation to tumor characteristics and false-positive risk by race/ethnicity and age. Cancer. 2013 Nov 15;119(22):3959–67. [Epub 2013 Aug 26]. PubMed
Li W, Ray RM, Thomas DB, Yost M, Davis S, Breslow N, Gao DL, Fitzgibbons ED, Camp JE, Wong E, Wernli KJ, Checkoway H. Occupational exposure to magnetic fields and breast cancer among women textile workers in Shanghai, China. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Oct 1;178(7):1038-45. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt161. Epub 2013 Sep 15. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Kitahara CM, Tamers SL, Al-Temimi MH, Braithwaite D. Undertaking cancer research in international settings: report from the American Society for Preventive Oncology Special Interest Group on International Issues in Cancer. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 Sep;22(9):1638-41. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-13-0655. Epub 2013 Jul 11. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Rutter CM, Dachman AH, Zafar HM. Suspected extracolonic neoplasms detected on CT colonography: literature review and possible outcomes. Acad Radiol. 2013 Jun;20(6):667-74. doi: 10.1016/j.acra.2013.01.017. Epub 2013 Mar 1. PubMed
Kerlikowske K, Zhu WW, Hubbard R, Gellar B, Dittus K, Braithwaite D, O’Meara E, Wernli KJ, Miglioretti D, for the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Outcomes of screening mammography by frequency, breast density and postmenopausal hormone therapy. JAMA Intern Med. 2013 May 13;173(9):807-16. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.307. Epub 2013 Mar 18. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Inadomi JM. Anesthesia for colonoscopy: too much of a good thing? Comment on "Complications following colonoscopy with anesthesia assistance." JAMA Intern Med. 2013 Apr 8;173(7):556-8. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.4071. Epub 2013 Mar 11. PubMed
Braithwaite D, Zhu W, Hubbard RA, O'Meara ES, Miglioretti DL, Geller B, Dittus K, Moore D, Wernli KJ, Mandelblatt J, Kerlikowske K, for the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium. Screening outcomes in older U.S. women undergoing multiple mammograms in community practice: does interval, age or comorbidity score affect tumor characteristics or false positive rates? J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Mar 6;105(5):334-41. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djs645. Epub 2013 Feb 5. PubMed
Passarelli MN, Phipps AI, Potter JD, Makar KW, Coghill AE, Wernli KJ, White E, Chan AT, Hutter CM, Peters U, Newcomb PA. Common single nucleotide polymorphisms in the estrogen receptor beta promoter are associated with colorectal cancer survival in postmenopausal women. Cancer Res. 2013 Jan 15;73(2):767-75. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-2484. Epub 2012 Nov 13. PubMed
To view more publications, please see Dr. Wernli''s CV.