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 breast, colorectal, 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.
She is now leading a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) contract to compare breast MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to mammography for women already treated for breast cancer. There is little evidence to support the use of breast MRI for surveillance when physicians are looking for second breast cancers or recurrences of the first cancer. This 3-year $1.9 million contract engages patients and stakeholders to determine the best information for patient and physician decision-making. She is working with the Breast Cancer Surveillance Consortium (BCSC) to evaluate these two technologies. Also through the 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 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.
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.
Tiro JA, Kamineni A, Levin TR, Zheng Y, Schottinger JS, Rutter CM, Corley DA, Skinner CS, Chubak J, Doubeni CA, Halm EA, Gupta S, Wernli KJ, Klabunde C. The CRC screening process in community settings: a conceptual model for the Population-based Research Optimizing Screening through Personalized Regimens Consortium. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 Jun 10. pii: cebp.1217.2013 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Wernli KJ, Hubbard RA, Johnson E, Chubak J, Kamineni A, Green BB, Rutter CM. Patterns of colorectal cancer screening uptake in newly-eligible men and women. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2014 May 3 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Cohen-Cline H, Wernli KJ, Bradford SC, Boles-Hall M, Grossman DC. Use of interactive voice response to improve colorectal cancer screening. Med Care. 2014 Mar 15 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed
Aiello Bowles EJ, Wernli KJ, Gray HJ, Bogart A, Delate T, O’Keefe-Rosetti M, Nekhylyudov L, Trice Loggers E. Diffusion of intraperitoneal chemotherapy in women with advanced ovarian cancer in community settings 2003-2008: the effect of the NCI clinical recommendation. Front Oncol. 2014 Mar 10;4:43. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2014.00043. eCollection 2014. PubMed
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
To view more publications, please see Dr. Wernli’s CV.