Recently approved Research Bank projects

We are happy to hear you enjoyed reading about Kaiser Permanente Research Bank projects and publications.  We’ll continue to include project descriptions to keep everyone better informed.  Studies that were approved in the last year to use our Research Bank information include:

Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on physical, mental, and social health outcomes for cancer patients

The 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which causes COVID-19, spread across the world causing a global pandemic. The virus’s high infection rate and the severity of symptoms in older adults and those with underlying conditions have resulted in unprecedented actions across the United States to slow its transmission. These include national emergency declarations and shelter-in-place orders that closed businesses and mandated social distancing. These measures have been successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19, but they have also caused enormous social and economic disruptions, including increases in unemployment and financial strain. The uncertainty associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing practices may also lead to anxiety and depression. Thus, it is important to understand the direct health effects of the pandemic, as well as its social and behavioral impact. This project aims to 1) characterize the health-impacts of COVID-19 in cancer survivors; 2) identify demographic, household, behavioral, and health history factors associated with severe COVID-19 outcomes in cancer survivors; and 3) evaluate the behavioral, social, and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer survivors.

Genome-wide association study of bloodstream infection (sepsis) incidence and mortality in the general population

Bloodstream infection (sepsis) is a common cause of death in North America and across the world, but little is known about genetic susceptibility to this infection. We are conducting a series of genetic studies in two separate populations, a Norwegian ( and an American population (KP Research Bank), totaling more than 150,000 people. We are examining millions of single point mutations in the DNA of these individuals, and seeing how they are associated with risk of contracting and dying from a bloodstream infection, along with some common causes of sepsis, such as lower respiratory tract infection, urinary tract infection, and skin infections. We will also look at the genetic risk of bloodstream infection among people with cancer or those undergoing prostate biopsies. If we observe similar patterns in the Norwegian and U.S. populations, we can be more confident that the findings are not by chance. The study is the largest to date on this topic. The knowledge generated from this project may help guide clinical decisions for both doctors and patients, and further personalize follow-up, diagnosis, and treatment in the future.

Statin treatment and incident Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in a large, multi-ethnic health plan

This project is examining the effects of statin medications — a treatment for elevated cholesterol and heart disease — on the development of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD), using data from our Research Bank participants from Kaiser Permanente Northern California. While some studies have found a reduced risk of dementia among statin users, results have been inconsistent. This study with a large and well-characterized database will provide a definitive assessment of the overall effect of statin treatment on dementia risk. By 2030, it’s expected there will be about 75 million people with dementia, making it among the most important public health problem in the world today. This study could provide evidence supporting a causal role for statins in preventing ADRD, influence clinical guidelines for statin use, and reduce the growing burden of ADRD. Given the widespread current use of statins, rigorous evidence of their cognitive effects across the population is essential. Even very small effects of statins could have large population effects.

Molecular markers of severe mental illness

When a patient first shows signs of severe mental illness (psychotic symptoms), it can be difficult to tell if the symptoms are due to depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. These similarities can lead to misdiagnosis, improper treatment, and delays in care. As such, there is a need for reliable biological markers that could help predict which patients will go on to develop depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or not have any further psychiatric symptoms. Such markers would lower patient suffering and potentially improve outcomes. This study is examining the role of mitochondria in individuals with a psychotic disturbance to predict what psychiatric diagnoses they will develop compared to people who are otherwise similar in age, gender, and general health status, but without serious mental illnesses. It is the first study to compare patients with psychotic disturbances who develop schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression to patients who do not develop any severe mental illness. This study will provide preliminary evidence of potential biological markers to help differentiate and understand the underlying biology involved in these conditions.

Characterization of the Shared Genetic Basis of Dementia and Cancer

Time and again, it has been shown that individuals with dementia have a reduced risk of cancer and individuals with cancer have a reduced risk of dementia. It is not clear, however, how the two conditions are related biologically. We propose to study how genetics might influence dementia and cancer in opposite directions. The results have the potential to yield pivotal insights into the underpinnings of the diseases and to inform possible prevention and therapeutic strategies. Such science could provide critical given the substantial effects of dementia and cancer on quality of life and mortality.

The association between e-cigarette use and health care utilization, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary outcomes, and COVID-19 illness

The prevalence of lung injury cases associated with e-cigarette or vaping products necessitates rigorous research to understand health outcomes associated with e-cigarette use. This study will examine health care utilization, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary health outcomes, and COVID-19 illness among three groups of KPRB participants: e-cigarette users, smokers who do not use e-cigarettes, and never-smokers. Results from this study will contribute to the scientific literature by describing the population of patients who use e-cigarettes and evaluating the health outcomes associated with e-cigarette use. Patients and KP members will benefit from these findings as their medical providers will be able to provide more information about risks associated with e-cigarette use.