OU Health Researcher Receives Grant for E-Cigarette Study

  • Category: News
  • Posted On:

Oklahoma City – Lurdes Queimado, M.D., Ph.D., professor with the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology, has been awarded a $2.25 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to continue her work on electronic cigarettes and their role in increasing the risk for oral cancers. The five-year research grant will support Queimado’s project titled, “Biological Impact of Exclusive and Dual E-Cigarette Use on Oral Cancer Risk.”

Greg A. Krempl, M.D., FACS, chair, OU College of Medicine Department of Otolaryngology, said, “We congratulate Dr. Queimado on her pioneering work that has gained recognition from the NCI. This competitive grant will advance her outstanding work to much higher levels.” 

Queimado, Oklahoma TSET Research Scholar and director of Basic and Translational Research, Department of Otolaryngology, acknowledged the teamwork the awarded grant represents.

“Beyond great collaborators, it takes a dedicated base of both clinical and clerical professionals to successfully accomplish sound human research. From the enrollment of study participants and sample collection, to the million administrative tasks in tandem with this effort, this grant reflects a decade of commitment to the success of the Otolaryngology team.”

While cigarette smoking has slowly declined in the United States, alternative tobacco products, which also contain chemicals and toxins, continue to grow in popularity. Electronic cigarettes, also known as

e-cigarettes, e-cigs or vape pens, do not burn tobacco, but use liquid-filled cartridges. The device heats the liquid chemicals, producing a vapor or steam inhaled by the user. Liquids may include flavorants as well as nicotine and other components. Because aerosols produced by e-cigarettes contain fewer chemicals than tobacco smoke, e-cigarettes are widely perceived as a safer alternative to conventional cigarettes. However, these aerosols contain unique constituents that may have unforeseen health consequences. For example, Queimado’s previous research has shown that, in addition to causing DNA damage – damage at a molecular level - e-cigarette aerosols can reduce the capacity to repair DNA.

“There is some evidence that e-cigarettes may help smokers reduce smoking habits and potentially, their health risks. Yet, e-cigarettes are not entirely safe. Rather than being a path to quitting, e-cigarettes may become a gateway to tobacco smoking, and may cause an entirely new array of health risks,” said Queimado. “As a result of decreased DNA repair capacity, we see potential for increased cancer risk associated with e-cigarette use and exposure to other environmental toxins.” 

The work funded by the award will focus on young adults, 35 years of age and younger, and address public health questions about safety of e-cigarettes as compared to conventional cigarettes. Further, the study will explore the cancer risks of those who use both e-cigarettes and combustible tobacco.

Based on responses to a recent national survey, Oklahoma has the highest use of e-cigarettes in the nation.  E-cigarettes are the most-used tobacco product among youth, and are used by more than one third of adult tobacco smokers, typically dual users. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 5.3 million students of high-school and middle-school age in the United States reported using e-cigarettes in 2019. Among adults, current smokers had the highest rate of use, with 52.5% reporting at least incidental use, and 10.8% currently using e-cigarettes. 

Preliminary work that led to this grant was supported by the Stephenson Cancer Center. Many research studies and continued program developments at Stephenson are made possible through support from the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET).

To advance research objectives, eligible study participants are needed. For more information and to determine eligibility please call the study office at (405) 271-8001, ext. 47917, or email Breathefree@ouhsc.edu.  



Founded in 1910, the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine trains the next generation of healthcare professionals. With campuses in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the College of Medicine offers the state’s only Doctor of Medicine degree program and a nationally competitive Physician Assistant program. For more information, visit oumedicine.com/collegeofmedicine.


OU Health — along with its academic partner, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center — is the state’s only comprehensive academic health system of hospitals, clinics and centers of excellence. With 11,000 employees and more than 1,300 physicians and advanced practice providers, OU Health is home to Oklahoma’s largest physician network with a complete range of specialty care. OU Health serves Oklahoma and the region with the state’s only freestanding children’s hospital, the only National Cancer Institute-Designated Stephenson Cancer Center and Oklahoma’s flagship hospital, which serves as the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. OU Health is the No. 1 ranked hospital system in Oklahoma, and its oncology program at Stephenson Cancer Center and OU Medical Center ranked in the Top 50 in the nation, in the 2019-2020 rankings released by U.S. News & World Report. OU Health was also ranked by U.S. News & World Report as high performing in four specialties: Ophthalmology in partnership with Dean McGee Eye Institute, Colon Surgery, COPD and Congestive Heart Failure. OU Health’s mission is to lead healthcare in patient care, education and research. To learn more, visit oumedicine.com.