Hollings researchers secure funding for an attempt to reduce vaping in adolescents | MUSK

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Researchers at the MUSC Hollings Cancer Center found that most teenagers want to quit vaping. The challenge is to help them give up addictive behavior. For many young people, helping them manage depression is important.

Step onto the scene Jennifer Dahne, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at MUSC College of Medicine and a member of the Hollings Cancer Control Program. She recently received one of the first National Institute of Health-funded scholarships aimed at reducing vaping in teenagers. The $ 320,000 technology transfer grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse will help researchers develop a smartphone app to help teenagers stop vaping.

“Most of my research is focused on developing various technology-based interventions. I mainly focus on treating depression and smoking cessation, ”said Dahne. “These are my areas of interest because they affect a lot of people. With my research program, I think about how we develop, evaluate, and publish interventions in a way that really gets us the most bang for the buck. “

This study will further advance Hollings’ cancer control research program by addressing a problem that affects more and more adolescents. According to previous studies cited in Dahne’s paper, the number of teens reporting on vaping rose from near zero in 2011 to 27.8% in 2019.

“The idea behind the Small Business Technology Transfer Scholarship program is to invest taxpayer money that we pay into the NIH’s research portfolio into research, which then goes towards commercializing products and generating revenue for the economy. “Said Dahne.

Dr. Jennifer Dahne focuses her research on technologies and digital tools that help make interventions more widely available.

The project is one of the most recent examples of collaboration within the MUSC. Dahne has partnered with the MUSC Research Development Foundation to apply for and receive funding for the study, which will help drive innovation at MUSC.

“I think MUSC is doing a fantastic job of thinking about how we can market innovations so that we commercialize our innovations, which then bring money back to the university and the economy in general, and broader our interventions,” said Dahne.

A multidisciplinary team is involved in the project, including Hollings researcher Tracy Smith, Ph.D. and Matthew Carpenter, Ph.D., also in the cancer control program, and Lindsay Squeglia, Ph.D., with the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at MUSC.

The team is working with small business MountainPass Technology LLC to develop an app that addresses some of the biggest risk factors that can cause teens ages 16-20 to start and continue vaping.

Jack Kustanowitz, director at MountainPass Technology, said his group worked with Dahne on other projects and appreciated the opportunity to work with researchers. “Our early apps were a single platform, iOS only, and pretty much mirrored the paper-and-pencil approach,” he said. “Over the years, the ability to develop across platforms for both iOS and Android has greatly improved, and our new designs reflect our growing understanding of how mobile app users interact with technology to manage the treatment process.”

This is crucial in order to reach the target age group, said Dahne. “We wanted to do a digital intervention because we know that around 98% of this age group use smartphones very often.”

When investigating what triggers steaming, the researchers identified one of the biggest risk factors as depressive symptoms, which was reported by 36% of teenage vapers. The app will focus on an evidence-based treatment for depression called behavior activation.

“You treat depression by helping a patient identify activities that they can do, that are important to them, that they enjoy, and that they can put on a daily calendar,” she said.

Users can track their successes and accomplishments through the app, which also allows them to see changes in their vaping habits. The app is specially developed and tested to appeal to younger generations.

“We added some of those gamification elements that are very popular with this age group. So the more you get involved with the app, the more you do in the app and your vape score goes up, ”said Dahne. “Right now we have things like a leaderboard where you can see where you are compared to other people. We hope that this will help them keep interacting with the app. “

Kustanowitz recognizes the challenges this study poses for both researchers and app developers. He said the audience for this study was different and more focused than those they’ve worked with in the past.

“I believe our approach of design, validation through interviews, development and then user feedback will allow us to produce something of measurably high quality that we hope we can develop beyond the initial study,” said Kustanowitz.

Before starting the study, the researchers will collect feedback from the target audience on the app. Once the app is tested, Dahne will work with Vanessa Diaz, MD, a MUSC family doctor, to test 30 adolescent participants, 20 of whom are using the app and 10 of whom are receiving traditional treatment from MUSC Health and another affiliated elementary school care facilities across the world South carolina.

“Most people with depression are treated by their family doctor, not a mental health specialist,” Dahne said. “What we know about primary care is that it is incredibly busy. You have very little time for each patient and there is a lot to do in that time. “

“We have the opportunity here to intervene early to help people quit vaping and perhaps reduce the transition to cigarette smoking. I think that’s why it’s really important to our anti-cancer program. “
– Dr. Jennifer Dahne

Each participant will be enrolled in the study for four weeks, but Dahne estimates it will take at least six months to complete the study. Upon completion, the researchers measure and compare the results with the group who used the app with those who received traditional primary care. Specifically, the researchers will measure the changes between the number of times users vape, whether they tried to quit, how long they quit, and where they fell on a depression scale.

“You cannot develop an intervention anymore, especially for that age group where you will say, ‘You come and do group therapy, face-to-face, for 12 weeks and everything will be.” on paper ‘”, said Dahne about the importance of the app functions.

Dahne hopes that this study will continue to encourage young people to make healthier decisions in the future.

“We have an opportunity here to intervene early to help people quit vaping and perhaps reduce the transition to cigarette smoking,” she said. “I think that’s why it’s really important to our anti-cancer program.”

Dahne said the long-term goal of this first study and study is to develop a commercial product that could be readily available to youth across the country. Work on the app began at the beginning of May and the study is scheduled to run until the end of April 2022.

“The idea with an app-based intervention like this is that it can be very easily recommended in primary care in a short amount of time,” she said. “So when a GP, pediatrician, or school nurse sees a teen vaping, they can say, ‘Hey, there’s this app that is available to you that you might find useful.'”

Parents who are interested in including their young people in the project or young people up to 20 years of age, please contact the program coordinator Noelle Natale at [email protected]

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