Portrait of Cosette Wheeler, Ph.D.
Cosette M. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Department of Pathology, University of New Mexico (UNM) Regents Professor, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, UNM Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM

Cosette Wheeler, Ph.D., is a University of New Mexico (UNM) Regents Professor in the Department of Pathology and in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the UNM Health Sciences Center. She serves as the Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Chair in Translational Medicine and Public Health Sciences and is a Special Populations Staff Investigator at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. For more than 30 years, Dr. Wheeler’s New Mexico research group has contributed to understanding the molecular epidemiology of human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, which cause virtually all cervical precancer and cancer. Her interests have spanned many facets of HPV-related cervical disease, including development of nucleic acid-based HPV diagnostics, HPV phylogeny and global molecular variation, host and viral genetic risk factors, and natural history of cervical disease outcomes. She has overseen a number of large-scale multidisciplinary, population-based projects that have advanced the understanding of the natural history of HPV. Dr. Wheeler led the HPV Quality Control Group for NCI’s ALTS study, a clinical trial to assess the utility of HPV testing in triage of mildly abnormal Pap tests. She also led U.S. clinical trial groups that tested the efficacy of publicly-available HPV vaccines: Merck’s Gardasil phase I, II and III trials and Glaxo Smith-Kline’s Cervarix phase II and III studies.

Since 2006, Dr. Wheeler has led a state-wide surveillance program in New Mexico that represents a one-of-a-kind public health and health informatics resource for the United States, transcending health care organizations, clinical practices and individual providers. The New Mexico HPV Pap Registry (NMHPVPR) was established to ensure the health of New Mexico’s women and their partners. It captures all Pap and HPV tests, as well as all cervical, vulvar, and vaginal pathology under state regulations for all women residing in New Mexico. In addition, the NMHPVPR program assesses immunization information statewide and uses administrative data for HPV vaccine delivery to assess HPV vaccine impact and effectiveness. Understanding the benefits and harms of cervical screening and HPV vaccination – and their implementation through real-world clinical practice – are requisite to appropriate integration of these two prevention strategies within diverse U.S. populations.

Dr. Wheeler is a recipient of the American Society of Coloposcopy and Cervical Pathology Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award and served on the President’s Cancer Panel 2012 workshop on HPV vaccination and screening. (see additional information for several UNM HPV programs at https://unmhealth.org/cancer/research/hpv-prev-ctr/).