The research interests of Robert A. Vierkant are focused on the application of data analysis methods for observational studies, primarily in the field of cancer epidemiology.
As a consulting statistician, Mr. Vierkant collaborates with a number of investigators in the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, with much of his effort directed toward the study of breast and ovarian cancer. Current research activities include the assessment of genetic associations with ovarian cancer, the identification and assessment of breast cancer-related biomarkers, and the development of risk prediction models. Mr. Vierkant is also involved in pharmacogenomics research with Mayo Clinic's Center for Individualized Medicine and in health disparities research with the newly developed Center for Health Equity and Community Engaged Research.
- Identifying biomarkers of breast cancer risk in women with a history of benign breast lesions. Women with a personal history of benign breast lesions are at increased risk of developing breast cancer compared to women without such lesions. However, current risk prediction estimates for these women are highly variable. Mr. Vierkant's goal is to identify biomarkers of risk for women with benign breast disease to better stratify breast cancer risk groups, thus assisting clinicians as they counsel patients regarding risk.
- Identifying genomic attributes associated with risk and prognosis of ovarian cancer. Although ovarian cancer risk and survival both have a strong genetic component, less is known about the specific genetic variants that affect these outcomes. The goal of Mr. Vierkant and his colleagues is to identify a larger series of genetic factors that, when combined with known lifestyle factors, will better predict ovarian cancer risk and survival.
- Identifying modalities to increase breast and cervical cancer screening rates in Native American communities. Breast cancer incidence rates in American Indian (AI) women are lower than that of non-Hispanic white women, yet AI women tend to be diagnosed with breast cancer at a later stage and have poorer five-year breast cancer survival. One explanation for this is that AI women have lower mammographic screening adherence rates than non-Hispanic white women. Mr. Vierkant is working with investigators in the Center for Health Equity and Community Engaged Research to identify modalities to increase adherence to mammographic screening guidelines in AI women.
Significance to patient care
The ultimate goal of Mr. Vierkant's research is to provide clinicians and practitioners with individualized medical information to help determine optimal prevention and treatment strategies for patients with cancer.