Clinical Research

The BMED Service is at the forefront of research focused on developing, validating, and disseminating psychosocial interventions to help individuals with a variety of health and medical issues.

brned Behavioral Medicine Research

The BMED Service and its faculty have secured approximately $11 million in funded research programs primarily through National Institute of Health grant awards and have recruited more than 400 participants into clinical intervention research. Faculty and Fellows within the BMED Service have published or had accepted for publication well over 200 peer reviewed articles and book chapters.

The BMED Service is at the forefront of research focused on developing, validating, and disseminating psychosocial interventions to help individuals with a variety of health and medical issues.

Here is a list of ongoing BMED research projects. If you are interested in participating in one of these projects, please use the information in the “Potential Participants” section of the project description below.


Ongoing Research Studies Seeking Participants


Behavioral Medicine

“The interdisciplinary field concerned with the development and integration of behavioral, psychosocial, and biomedical science knowledge and techniques relevant to the understanding of health and illness, and the application of this knowledge and these techniques to prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation”. Definition provided by the Society of Behavioral Medicine (SBM).

Project: Addressing Psychosocial Comorbidities in HIV Treatment and Prevention
Principal Investigator: Steven Safren, Ph.D., ABPP
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: 1K24MH094214

Description: This is a 5-year mid-career development grant awarded to Dr. Safren, focused on mentoring junior investigators in behavioral interventions related to HIV treatment and prevention, specifically focusing on associated psychosocial problems (syndemics) relevant to HIV prevention and care. As part of the mentoring, it includes a research study for the PI and mentees to be involved with. The research study aims to develop a cognitive-behavioral intervention addressing HIV care and prevention for HIV-positive patients who have multiple mental health concerns. Typically mental health concerns negatively interact with one another and increase risk of HIV transmission, while decreasing HIV-positive patients’ ability to care for their health. This study is designed in two phases. Phase 1 involves interviews about experiences with treatment for participants who have completed our other study: Project TRIAD (Efficacy of CBT for Adherence and Depression in HIV Care Settings; see above). The second phase involves field testing of a cognitive-behavioral therapy for HIV-positive people focusing on their multiple mental health concerns and HIV medical care.

Potential Participants: Volunteers who are eligible for Phase 1 of this study must have also participated in our other study: Project TRIAD (Efficacy of CBT for Adherence and Depression in HIV Care Settings; above). If you have received treatment through Project TRIAD and are interested in participating in this research, please contact Johannes at at 617-643-4566. Phase 2 has not yet started.


Project: HIV Prevention and Trauma Treatment for MSM with Childhood Sexual Abuse Histories
Principal Investigator: Conall O’Cleirigh, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: R01MH095624-01

Description: This two-arm RCT aims to test the efficacy of a psycho-social intervention that addresses intersecting epidemics among men who have sex with me (MSM): HIV and childhood sexual abuse (CSA). Participants in this study (HIV-uninfected MSM) will potentially receive sexual risk reduction counseling with Cognitive Processing Therapy for Sexual Risk (CPT-SR). CPT-SR has been specifically piloted on MSM with CSA histories and sexual risk to reduce interfering negative CSA-related thoughts about self, to more accurately appraise sexual risk, and to decrease avoidance of sexual safety considerations, and through rehearsals of sexual safety behaviors. The alternative treatment (active and time-matched) will includes sexual risk reduction counseling and individualized supportive psychotherapy. Both therapeutic interventions a comprised of 10 individual 60 minute therapy sessions. The public health goal of this research is that by reducing sexual HIV risk behavior, new HIV infections and other sexually transmitted diseases will be reduced.
Potential Participants: If you are interested in participating in this research, please visit http://readytothrive.org or contact the study coordinator at 617-927-6119.


Project: Integrated Treatment for Smoking Cessation & Anxiety in People with HIV
Principal Investigator: Conall O’Cleirigh, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Project Number: 1R34DA031038-01A

Description: This trial will provide important information regarding the potential efficacy and mechanisms of an integrated intervention for and at risk group of HIV+ smokers, namely those who also have clinically significant anxiety problems (>60% of HIV+ smokers). Identifying efficacious treatments for smoking cessation for HIV+ adults has considerable public health significance because cigarette smoking is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States (U.S.), contributing to over 440,000 deaths each year, and HIV+ smokers comprise an overrepresented group among smokers.
This study will yield important information in the treatment of drug use and anxiety symptoms in HIV+ individuals, including how best to treat this vulnerable population. Moreover, this study will guide advances in the theoretical conceptualization of the mechanisms involved in HIV-anxiety- smoking relations.
Potential Participants: If you are interested in participating in this research, please contact Jesse at 617-724-0637.


Ongoing Research Studies Not Seeking Participants


Project: Efficacy of CBT for Adherence and Depression in HIV Care Settings
Principal Investigator: Steven A. Safren, Ph.D., ABPP
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: 5R01MH084757-03

Description This is a study for people living with HIV who are experiencing significant symptoms of depression, some of whom may have problems with adherence to their HIV medications. This 3-arm RCT study compares the impact of cognitive behavioral therapy for improving adherence and treating depression as compared to two alternative approaches. The first alternative approach is adherence counseling plus supportive psychotherapy and education for the treatment of depression. Both these therapeutic interventions involve up to 12 individual 50 minute therapy sessions. The second alternative approach is a single session adherence intervention.


Project: Addressing Psychosocial Needs and HIV Risk In Indian MSM
Principal Investigator: Steven Safren, Ph.D., ABPP
Funding Source: Office of the Director, National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Project Number: 5R21MH085314-02

Description: This is an NIMH R21 grant to develop and pilot test a behavioral HIV prevention intervention for men who have sex with men in Chennai, India. We are partnering with the Tuberculosis Research Centre, in Chennai, as well as Fenway Community Health, in Boston. It is part of an Indo-U.S. collaborative program of grants sponsored by the NIH and by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).


Project: Integrating Tobacco Treatment into Cancer Care
Principal Investigator: Elyse R. Park, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Project Number: R01CA166147-01A1

Description: Quitting smoking after cancer diagnosis may increase patients’ quality of life and improve treatment outcomes through decreases in complications from surgery; radiation; or chemotherapy and decreases in risk of second primary tumors. At diagnosis, approximately 10-30% of cancer patients are smokers. We are assessing the effectiveness of two evidence-based tobacco treatments among newly diagnosed cancer patients. We will enroll 295 current smokers newly diagnosed with lung, colon, breast, or prostate cancer at MGH and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and compare the differential effectiveness of delivering an Intensive Treatment (IT; 10 motivational counseling sessions plus 12 weeks of FDA approved smoking cessation medication) versus a Brief Treatment (BT; 4 motivational counseling sessions plus medication advice).  This project targets tobacco use behaviors that can significantly improve the quality of life and cancer treatment outcomes among a growing population of cancer survivors.


Project: Developing a resiliency program for medical interpreters in cancer care
Principal Investigator: Elyse R. Park, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Project Number: 5U54CA156732-02

Description: Limited English proficiency (LEP) patients are at risk for lower quality cancer care. Interpreters are a critical link to quality cancer care for LEP patients, and stress levels are high among these medical interpreters and may lead to interpreter burnout. We are conducting a 2-phase study with 3 Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center sites to develop a psychoeducational resiliency training program.  In Phase 1 we will conduct focus groups to identify the psychosocial needs of medical interpreters working with cancer patients.  In Phase 2 we will develop and test, using a randomized wait-list control pilot trial, a resiliency program to enhance interpreters’ skills to effectively manage and cope with stressful encounters.


Project: Body Image and Self-care in HIV-infected MSM
Principal Investigator: Aaron Blashill, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: 1K23MH096647-01A1

Description: This is a 5-year career development grant awarded to Dr. Blashill, focused on addressing health risk behaviors in men who have sex with men (MSM) within the context of syndemics (co-occuring psychosocial problems), with a particular focus on body image disturbance and depression.  Roughly 31% of HIV-infected MSM report dissatisfaction with their appearance and this disturbance is associated with elevated depression and poor HIV self-care behaviors. Part of this development award includes a research study which aims to develop a cognitive-behavioral intervention addressing HIV care and prevention for HIV-infected MSM who report dissatisfaction with their appearance. This study is designed in two phases. Phase 1 involves developing and field testing of a cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for body image, depression, and self-care. The second phase involves a two-arm RCT testing the efficacy of the CBT intervention compared to a treatment-as-usual condition.


Project: Perinatal Depression, Stigma, Social Capital Utilization and PMTCT Adherence
Principal Investigator: Christina Psaros, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: 1K23MH096651-01

Description: The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) illustrate key areas in which the lives of women and children worldwide are in need, including improving maternal health and a reduction in childhood mortality. The success of meeting both these goals depends on reducing rates of vertical transmission of HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa is one of the areas targeted by the MDGs and bears a substantial degree of HIV disease burden, with well over 22 million people living with HIV at the end of 2008, a significant number of whom are women of reproductive age. Depression has been associated with non-adherence to the series of health behaviors known as preventing mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV. Women in resource limited settings are likely to face additional barriers to PMTCT adherence, including stigma and structural barriers. While structural barriers may be circumvented by relying on community resources (known as social capital), depression and stigma may make it difficult to access these resources. Thus, understanding the role of modifiable factors that contribute to PMTCT adherence is critical to meeting the goals of the MDGs. The goals of the proposed project are to (1) investigate the relationships among perinatal depression, stigma, social capital utilization, PMTCT adherence, and (2) to test a pilot intervention to treat perinatal depression and improve adherence to ARVs among HIV infected women in a resource limited setting.


Project: Intervention to Increase Chemotherapy Tolerance in Elderly Cancer Patients
Principal Investigator: Lara Traeger, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Project Number: 1R03CA157200-01A1

Description: In locally advanced (Stages II and III) colon cancer, elderly patients commonly receive chemotherapy regimens that are less intensive than evidence-based recommendations, which reduce the survival benefit of this treatment. We aim to explore the multi-level challenges that elderly patients face in completing optimal regimens, and to develop and pilot test a behavioral intervention to enhance patients' skills for managing these challenges. Establishing strategies to enhance symptom management and increase rates of optimal chemotherapy completion is an important step in improving oncology practice and promoting cancer control and survival.


Project: Improving antiretroviral medication adherence among HIV-infected youth
Principal Investigator: Matthew Mimiaga, Sc.D.
Funding Source: National Institute of Allergy nd Infectious Diseases (NIAID)
Project Number: 2P30AI060354-06

Description: This study is to develop (through extensive qualitative methods) and pilot test in an RCT design a behavioral intervention to improve medication adherence among HIV infected adolescents, ages 13 to 24.


Project: HIV Prevention Intervention for Young Transgender Women
Principal Investigator: Matthew Mimiaga, Sc.D. and Robert Garofalo, M.D., MPH
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: 2P30AI060354-06

Description: This study is to test the efficacy of a uniquely targeted HIV risk reduction intervention for sexually experienced young transgender women, ages 16 to 24. We will test this intervention in a three-arm randomized controlled trial in two major U.S. cities: Boston and Chicago.


Project: Behavioral Activation and HIV Risk Reduction for MSM with Crystal Meth Abuse
Principal Investigator: Matthew Mimiaga, Sc.D.
Funding Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)
Project Number: 1R34DA031028-01

Description: The present study aims to test a novel treatment for crystal meth dependence and sexual risk behavior in HIV uninfected MSM, incorporating behavioral activation therapy with integrated HIV risk reduction counseling.


Project: Fifteen Years of Epidemic HIV: Novel Risk Behavior in South African Teens in 2010
Principal Investigator: Christina Psaros, Ph.D.
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health(NIMH)
Project Number: 1R03MH093237-01A1

Description: Rates of HIV infection among young women in South Africa are among the highest in the world. Adolescent women in South Africa represent part of the "second generation" of HIV affected youth, a cohort that remains understudied. Adolescent women coming of age today likely have different experiences related to HIV than the generation before; we plan to explore how the experiences of these women may impact current HIV risk behavior with the ultimate goal of learning how to best intervene in order to reduce rates of HIV in the future.


Recently Completed Research Studies


Project: Compensatory Executive Functioning Skills Training in Adolescents with ADHD
Principal Investigator: Steven Safren, Ph.D., ABPP
Funding Source: National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Project Number: 5R34MH083063-03

Description: This is a 3-year study to investigate the efficacy of a cognitive behavioral intervention for adolescents with ADHD who are stabilized on medications but still show clinically significant residual symptoms. Self-report, parent-report, teacher report, and independent assessor (who will be blind to treatment condition) data will be used as outcomes.