Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care Services

A Focused Mission

The Cantor Center's efforts focus on three major areas:

  • Conducting innovative research on quality of life and quality of care for cancer patients and families.
  • Engaging nurses and other Dana-Farber patient care staff in research.
  • Promoting the use of research evidence to ensure that patient care is of the highest standards.


The Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care Services (Cantor Center) was established in 2001 with the support of Richard “Dick” Cantor in memory of his late wife. In alignment with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at large, the Cantor Center’s primary focus is to decrease the burden of cancer. Under its first director, Susan Bauer Wu, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Cantor Center conducted a variety of research studies that included an integrative healthcare approach. In 2008, Donna Berry, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, became the second director of the Cantor Center. Over the course of a decade, Dr. Berry built a strong infrastructure that included the development of the focused mission detailed below. Dr. Berry also established the Science and Practice Aligned Within Nursing (SPAWN)© model for fostering evidence-based practice.

As the Cantor Center grew, the scope of the research being conducted broadened with studies including patient decision-making, innovative technology, symptom management, health behaviors, intervention science, and implications for genetic testing. In 2018, Meghan Underhill-Blazey, PhD, APRN, AOCNS, FAAN, became the interim director and advanced research related to patient/family genetic implications. Beginning in 2019, Marilyn Hammer, PhD, DC, RN, FAAN, became the Cantor Center’s third director with a commitment to carrying the legacy forward. Expanding on the established research areas, current research priorities include a focus on precision health symptom science with inclusiveness, diversity, and equitability.

The mission of the Cantor Center is to reduce the burden of cancer through scholarly inquiry and rigorous research. The focus of the Center's research is the patient/family experience of living with a predisposition to or diagnosis of cancer, as well as survivorship issues post-treatment.

Research Themes

Nurse scientists at the Cantor Center conduct a variety of research studies that encompass understanding biological mechanisms, differences in symptom experiences, improving symptom management, aiding patient decision-making, and understanding family/caregiver needs. Throughout these research studies, emphasis is placed on ensuring inclusivity, diversity, and equity. Nurse scientists at the Cantor Center collaborate with other research scientists across the Institute and work closely with direct care nurses, post-doctoral fellows, and students at Dana-Farber and other collaborating institutions in research relevant to their fields of expertise, creating a direct link between science and practice.

Marilyn Hammer, PhD, DC, RN, FAAN, the director of the Cantor Center, conducts a program of research dedicated to understanding associations between glycemic status, metabolism, and immune function in patients with cancer, including how these mechanisms impact risks for poor symptom experiences and outcomes. In alignment with precision health targets, the goals based on findings from these investigations are to develop a symptom risk assessment tool and design individually tailored interventions for improved symptom management and outcomes.

Mary Cooley, PhD, RN, FAAN, focuses her research on improving cancer symptom management through clinical decision support and enhancing healthy behaviors through multiple risk reduction interventions, including digital intervention for high-risk smokers to enhance lung health and optimizing the process and uptake of lung cancer screening among patients, providers, and across the health care system.

Tamryn Gray, PhD, RN, MPH, has research interests including patient-family centered care, disparities, and health services research. Her work focuses on the palliative and supportive care needs of family caregivers who are most vulnerable to caregiver burden and poor quality of life, particularly those caring for patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and those with advanced cancer.

Rachel Pozzar, PhD, RN, FNP-BC, is developing innovative approaches to patient-centered communication and care, particularly in a gynecologic cancer care setting, exploring aspects of patient-reported outcomes, medical decision making, and symptom science.

Terri Jabaley, PhD, RN, OCN, is facilitating multiple projects to advance the implementation of evidence-based practice in clinical oncology at Dana-Farber. She is leading the development and testing of symptom management pathways for patients in cancer treatment, using an implementation science approach to evaluate process effectiveness and patient outcomes.

Ijeoma Eche, PhD, FNP-BC, AOCNP, CPHON, BMT-CN, is laying the foundation to develop nurse-led culturally congruent psychosocial interventions for historically disadvantaged families of children diagnosed with cancer with the goal to address factors contributing to disparities in pediatric palliative care and outcomes.

Meghan Underhill-Blazey, PhD, RN, AOCNS, focuses on understanding and improving the experience of individuals at high risk for cancer due to personal or familial factors. She is leading work to promote health and wellness in individuals with risk for breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancer, as well as Hodgkin lymphoma.

Rob Knoerl, PhD, RN, is working to develop and test supportive care interventions to address the critical need for non-pharmacological treatments for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Knoerl also focuses on improving the identification of patients with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and subsequent implementation of recommended treatments in practice.

Carolyn Phillips, PhD, MSN, RN, AOCNP, focuses on the psychoneuroimmunological mechanisms of grief and the development of expressive arts-based interventions to improve communication about and coping with complex emotions. In her current research, she examines the impact of storytelling through music with family and professional caregivers and is specifically interested in its effect on brain connectivity, the alignment between neuro-affective and cognitive states, and the long-term effect on prolonged grief, post-traumatic growth, and psychosocial well-being.


Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a Magnet institution, is part of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, the country's largest NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. As such, the abundant resources of this research-intensive, state-of-the-art oncology care facility are available to the successful applicant. Formal networking and joint appointments with schools of nursing in the area promote a community of cancer nursing scholars with opportunities for collaboration.

The Cantor Center also supports the training of two Post-Doctoral Fellows:

The UMass Boston - Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center U54 Cancer Research Partnership
2019-2021 Fellow Ijeoma Eche, PhD, FNP-BC, AOCNP, CPHON, BMT-CN

Mittelman Integrative Therapies Post-Doctoral Research Fellowship
Call for Applicants