Staras Earns Cancer Center’s Principal Investigator of the Year

Stephanie Staras, left, receives award from Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center.
Stephanie Staras, left, receives award from Jonathan D. Licht, M.D., director of the UF Health Cancer Center.

Stephanie Staras, PhD, won the Principal Investigator award from the University of Florida Health Cancer Center for exceptional trial recruitment in 2023. She received the award in January at a ceremony at the Cade Museum in Gainesville, Florida. Staras is an Associate Professor and Associate Chair for Faculty Development in the Department of Health Outcomes and Biomedical Informatics

Staras’ National Institutes of Health-funded study, which aims to increase receipt of  human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, accrued more than 4,000 participants in 2023. To achieve this high accrual rate, Staras emphasized the importance of flexibility in her study methods and working with clinic partners.

Clinic buy-in is essential, so approaching clinics with clear explanations and demonstrated feasibility of their methods from a previous pilot study helped build trust. This trust enhanced collaboration between the study team and 30 clinic partners.

Team Effort

For her study team, creating the process of how they would document accruals was paramount.  They met multiple times with the clinical accrual office to clarify specifications they would need to meet for ongoing reports.

The team helping Staras meet these requirements included Marta Hansen, Gabriel Sanchez, and Xiaofei Chi, who processed weekly data from participating clinics. Staras also highlights the contributions of former UF faculty member Chris Harley for aiding in developing the study strategy, Matt Gurka for the study’s randomization model and statistical guidance, Lindsey Thompson for clinic recruitment, and clinic staff members.

Dr. Staras with research manager Marta Hansen.
Dr. Staras with research manager Marta Hansen.

Recruitment of patients and study participants in clinical trials can prove difficult, especially when involving children and vaccines. Staras’ efforts to study HPV vaccine hesitancy have been exceptional.

Staras has a long history as an expert in researching the prevention of HPV-related cancers using implementation science methods to reduce disparities. Recently she was named the co-leader of UF’s NCI-designated Cancer Control and Population Sciences research program, where their mission is to reduce the cancer burden in the 23-county area the Center serves in North Central Florida.

Staras also serves as the Director of Precision Public Health for the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute, and Associate Director of the Institute for Child Health Policy.