Dr. Borrelli Publishes Study on Precision Medicine Approach to Treat Smokers

DOM dinner 5Dr. Belinda Borrelli, Professor in Health Policy & Health Services Research at Henry M. Goldman School of Dental Medicine (GSDM), recently published a study on smoker subtypes in one of the top journals in psychology, Health Psychology. The paper, “The Identification of Three Different Types of Smokers Who Are Not Motivated to Quit: Results From a Latent Class Analysis,” investigated whether there are distinct subtypes of smokers who are not motivated to quit smoking, which could inform targeted treatment.  The subtypes were based on particular phenotypes such as current/past smoking-related illness, risk perceptions, smoking patterns, demographics, depression and other psychosocial characteristics and barriers to quitting. The study is co-authored by Erin Tooley, Roger Williams University; Sheila Gaynor, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; and Christopher J. Armitage, Alison Wearden, and Yvonne Kiera Bartlett, The University of Manchester.

The study recruited smokers who were not motivated to quit within 30 days. The researchers hypothesized that the unmotivated smokers were a heterogeneous rather than a homogenous group, with identifiable subtypes. From the sample of 500 smokers, researchers used Latent Class Analysis to reveal three distinct subtypes: Health-Concerned Smokers (HCS), Smokers with Psychosocial Barriers (SPB), and Unconvinced Smokers (UCS). HCS had a profile that was most favorable toward quitting and UCS had a profile that was least favorable. The proportion of smokers who never planned to quit varied distinctly by group, with 60.6% of UCS never planning to quit, while only 31.8% of SPB and 22.3% of HCS never plan to quit. The patterns within each group reveal potential treatment targets. The identification of these three subtypes opens promising avenues for the development of future treatment approaches, as targeted interventions for each subtype could provide better efficacy.

“Our next steps are to develop a screening tool that could be administered at the point of care to identify the type of unmotivated smoker and assist with how to approach the smoker and plan treatment,” said Dr. Borrelli.

Dr. Borrelli serves as the Director for the Center for Behavioral Sciences Research at GSDM. She is also a Visiting Professor at the University of Manchester and the co-chair of the GSDM-University of Manchester Collaborative Steering Committee.