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Cancer and Metabolic Disease

Cancer is the second leading cause of death after heart disease. Although there have been impressive advances in treatment for cancer that have led to longer life expectancy, there is no cure for advanced stage cancers. In addition, currently used therapeutics are associated with adverse side effects during treatment. Chemotherapeutic treatment is further associated with development of chronic neuropathic pain that persists after the chemotherapy is ceased. Therefore, continued research on alternative therapeutic options for cancer is of paramount importance. Research programs at UNECOM are exploring interactions between the immune system and cancer growth and metastases of breast cancer. In addition, research is being performed with the goal of improving the quality of life of cancer patients suffering from pain due to tumor metastases to the bone. Current treatments consist of opioids such as morphine and fentanyl and are not entirely effective and are associated with severe adverse side effects. The goal of the cancer research programs at UNECOM are to develop novel and effective treatment options targeting cancer through the immune-cancer interactions as well as to improve quality of life of cancer patients suffering from cancer-induced bone pain.

Research programs at UNECOM in the area of metabolic diseases focuses on: 1) insulin resistance and diabetes; 2) cardiovascular disease; and 3) medication-induced metabolic disease. Insulin resistance and diabetes are associated with obesity and other environmental factors and are significant risk factors for cardiovascular diseases. Mood disorders such as depression, anxiety and psychosis are associated with a 2-6 fold increase in metabolic diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis. Indeed, medications to treat these mood disorders can also increase the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease and overall metabolic risk. Research is ongoing at UNE that focuses on endocrine, nutritional and pharmacological mechanisms underlying insulin resistance, cardiac function and bone health.


Hwyda A. Arafat

M.D., Ph.D., MSc. MEdL

Clinical Professor, Physiology

(207) 602-2389

Stella Maris

Dr. Hwyda Arafat graduated from the Faculty of Medicine of Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt with highest honors. Upon completing her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Clinical Pathology, she joined the faculty of Ain Shams University as an instructor of Anatomy and Histology. She received her Master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences (Histopathology/Biochemistry) and her PhD in Cell Biology and Immunology from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Dr. Arafat received her... Read More

Karen Houseknecht

Karen L. Houseknecht

B.S., M.S., Ph.D.

Professor of Pharmacology

Associate Provost for Research and Scholarship

(207) 602-2872

Pickus Center

Dr. Houseknecht's career, which has spanned academic and corporate research environments, has focused on her unwavering passion around the discovery and development of novel therapeutics, including pharmaceutical, biologic and nutritional therapies for the treatment of metabolic disorders such as diabetes and obesity.  

Dr. Houseknecht's current research is focused on 1) identifying mechanisms underlying endocrine and metabolic side effects of antipsychotic medications and the implications of off-label prescribing of these medications to vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly; 2)... Read More



Diabetes and Metabolic Disease

Psychiatric Drug Pharmacology and Toxicology


Drug discovery

development and regulatory

Medication induced disease


Tamara King

Associate Professor, Physiology

(207) 602-2981

Stella Maris

Research interests center around mechanistic analysis of pain, with a specific focus on cancer-induced bone pain, osteoarthritis induced joint pain and chronic pain induced by nerve injury (neuropathic pain). An important aspect of my research is using approaches that allow for mechanistic evaluation of affective/motivational aspects of pain and pain relief in the preclinical setting. Such an approach will lead to the discovery of molecules that can effectively ameliorate ongoing pain across various preclinical models of pain, including cancer induced bone... Read More


chronic pain