Yale Translational Center to Develop Gender-Sensitive Treatment for Tobacco Dependence

About the Yale SCOR (Specialized Center of Research)

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable morbidity and mortality in the United States. Women, compared to men, have poorer rates of smoking cessation, exacerbated health risks, and FDA-approved medications for smoking cessation may not be as effective for women or have emerging limits due to side effects.

The Yale-SCOR, funded by the Office of Research on Women’s Health and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, brings together leading basic and clinical science experts to establish an interdisciplinary and translational program of research aimed at identifying novel therapeutics to address the critical health disparity faced by female smokers.

Research finds that women are more likely to smoke to regulate negative affect and stress, while men are more likely to smoke for the reinforcing properties of nicotine, suggesting that the noradrenergic system is an important direction in the development of a new approach to smoking cessation treatments.

Using both preclinical and clinical strategies, our interdisciplinary team, led by Dr. Sherry McKee as the Yale-SCOR PI, will probe the noradrenergic system’s effects on stress-reactivity and nicotine reinforcement - hypothesizing that (a) different brain systems modulated by noradrenergic activity are activated by smoking in women and men, and (b) noradrenergic agents can preferentially target these gender-sensitive systems to improve smoking cessation outcomes.

Specific Aims

The specific aims of the Yale-SCOR are to:

AIM 1: Evaluate the role of the noradrenergic system and its interactions with cholinergic and dopaminergic systems, in stress-induced smoking relapse and nicotine-based reinforcement, and use these findings to inform and expedite the development of gender-sensitive therapeutics for smoking cessation.

AIM 2: Mentor junior investigators in conducting interdisciplinary translational research on tobacco use and women’s health through training opportunities, including "clerkships" with SCOR PIs, and pilot funding.

AIM 3: Be a national resource to invigorate and galvanize the study of sex and gender differences in relation to smoking by providing expert consultation; supporting faculty training awards; mining national data on gender, smoking and health outcomes to inform health policy; and expanding our current program of local and national community outreach.