Velda Gonzalez

Faculty

Velda J. González Mercado, Ph.D, MSN, RN

Velda Gonzalez

MSN PhD RN

Assistant Professor

1 212 998 5392

Velda Gonzalez's additional information

Velda J. González-Mercado, Ph.D, MSN, RN, is an assistant professor at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. Her research focuses on symptom science and symptom management, particularly in relation to addressing the needs of the GI/GU cancer population. Her research uses innovative patient-centered phenotyping and “omic” approaches (such as microbiomics, metabolomics, and genomics) to understand the bio-behavioral underpinnings of cancer-related symptoms experienced by GI/GU cancer patients. Her research also examines ethnic differences in cancer-related symptoms, with the goal of developing symptom management interventions to improve treatment outcomes of Latinx and other minority patients receiving cancer therapies.

In her post-doctoral fellowship, González-Mercado received funding for her research from the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR) (F32NR016618; Dr. Wendy Henderson, PhD, MSN, CRNP, FAAN, consultant) and the American Nurses Foundation, to gather initial evidence of the relationship among chemo-radiation, dysbiosis, and fatigue in the rectal cancer population. Her dissertation,  “Gene Expression and Fatigue in Puerto Rican Men Receiving Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer,” was supported and conducted intramurally at the NINR, Division of Intramural Research, under the mentorship of Leorey Saligan, PhD, RN, CRNP, FAAN.

Prior to joining NYU, González-Mercado was a postdoctoral scholar at the University of South Florida College of Nursing. She also worked as a nursing instructor at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Campus School of Nursing; a research coordinator at the University of Puerto Rico Cancer Center; and a heart transplant coordinator at the Cardiovascular Center of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

González-Mercado completed a PhD at the University of Kansas School of Nursing; an MS in nursing at the University of Florida College of Nursing; and a BS in nursing at the University of Puerto Rico Nursing School of the Medical Sciences Campus.

PhD, Nursing - University of Kansas
MS, Nursing - University of Florida
BS, Nursing - University of Puerto Rico

Chronic disease
Adult health

International Society of Nurses in Genetics
Midwest Nursing Research Society
College of Nursing Professionals of Puerto Rico
Oncology Nursing Society
Sigma Theta Tau International

Faculty Honors Awards

Sousa Award of Excellence, University of Kansas, School of Nursing (2015)
Crighton Award, University of Kansas, School of Nursing (2014)
Ruth O. McKibben Alumni Research Award, University of Kansas, School of Nursing (2014)
Manuel A. Pérez Award, Commonwealth Government of Puerto Rico (2002)
Paulina R. Dávila Award, College of Nursing Professionals of Puerto Rico (2001)
International inductee, Sigma Theta Tau (1992)

Publications

Association of radiotherapy-related intestinal injury and cancer-related fatigue: A brief review and commentary

González-Mercado, V. J., Marrero, S., Pérez-Santiago, J., Tirado-Gómez, M., Marrero-Falcón, M. A., Pedro, E., & Saligan, L. N. (2021). Puerto Rico Health Sciences Journal, 40(1), 6-11.
Abstract
Abstract
Radiotherapy treatment−induced intestinal injury and gut microbial perturbation/ dysbiosis have been implicated in the pathobiology of cancer-related fatigue. The objective of this brief review was to explore the available evidence of the relationship between intestinal injury and self-reported fatigue, especially among cancer patients. The scientific evidence—including our own—linking gut mucosal barrier dysfunction and gut microbial perturbation/dysbiosis induced by cancer treatment with worsening of cancer-related fatigue (perhaps through the gut-brain axis) is limited but promising. Emerging data suggest that lifestyle interventions and the administration of specific probiotics may favorably modulate the gut microbiota and potentially mediate beneficial effects leading to improvements in fatigue. [P R Health Sci J 2020;40:6-11].

Changes in Gut Microbiome Associated With Co-Occurring Symptoms Development During Chemo-Radiation for Rectal Cancer: A Proof of Concept Study

González-Mercado, V. J., Henderson, W. A., Sarkar, A., Lim, J., Saligan, L. N., Berk, L., Dishaw, L., McMillan, S., Groer, M., Sepehri, F., & Melkus, G. D. (2021). Biological Research for Nursing, 23(1), 31-41. 10.1177/1099800420942830
Abstract
Abstract
Purpose: To examine a) whether there are significant differences in the severity of symptoms of fatigue, sleep disturbance, or depression between patients with rectal cancer who develop co-occurring symptoms and those with no symptoms before and at the end of chemotherapy and radiation therapy (CRT); b) differences in gut microbial diversity between those with co-occurring symptoms and those with no symptoms; and c) whether before-treatment diversity measurements and taxa abundances can predict co-occurrence of symptoms. Methods: Stool samples and symptom ratings were collected from 31 patients with rectal cancer prior to and at the end of (24–28 treatments) CRT. Descriptive statistics were computed and the Mann-Whitney U test was performed for symptoms. Gut microbiome data were analyzed using R’s vegan package software. Results: Participants with co-occurring symptoms reported greater severity of fatigue at the end of CRT than those with no symptoms. Bacteroides and Blautia2 abundances differed between participants with co-occurring symptoms and those with no symptoms. Our random forest classification (unsupervised learning algorithm) predicted participants who developed co-occurring symptoms with 74% accuracy, using specific phylum, family, and genera abundances as predictors. Conclusion: Our preliminary results point to an association between the gut microbiota and co-occurring symptoms in rectal cancer patients and serves as a first step in potential identification of a microbiota-based classifier.

Co-Occurrence of Symptoms and Gut Microbiota Composition Before Neoadjuvant Chemotherapy and Radiation Therapy for Rectal Cancer: A Proof of Concept

González-Mercado, V. J., Lim, J., Yu, G., Penedo, F., Pedro, E., Bernabe, R., Tirado-Gómez, M., & Aouizerat, B. (2021). Biological Research for Nursing, 23(3), 513-523. 10.1177/1099800421991656
Abstract
Abstract
Purpose: To examine a) whether there are significant differences in gut microbial diversity and in the abundance of gut microbial taxa; and b) differences in predicted functional pathways of the gut microbiome between those participants with high co-occurring symptoms and those with low co-occurring symptoms, prior to neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy (CRT) for rectal cancer. Methods: Rectal cancer patients (n = 41) provided stool samples for 16 S rRNA gene sequencing and symptom ratings for fatigue, sleep disturbance, and depressive symptoms prior to CRT. Descriptive statistics were computed for symptoms. Gut microbiome data were analyzed using QIIME2, LEfSe, and the R statistical package. Results: Participants with high co-occurring symptoms (n = 19) had significantly higher bacterial abundances of Ezakiella, Clostridium sensu stricto, Porphyromonas, Barnesiella, Coriobacteriales Incertae Sedis, Synergistiaceae, Echerichia-Shigella, and Turicibacter compared to those with low co-occurring symptoms before CRT (n = 22). Biosynthesis pathways for lipopolysaccharide, L-tryptophan, and colanic acid building blocks were enriched in participants with high co-occurring symptoms. Participants with low co-occurring symptoms showed enriched abundances of Enterococcus and Lachnospiraceae, as well as pathways for β-D-glucoronosides, hexuronide/hexuronate, and nicotinate degradation, methanogenesis, and L-lysine biosynthesis. Conclusion: A number of bacterial taxa and predicted functional pathways were differentially abundant in patients with high co-occurring symptoms compared to those with low co-occurring symptoms before CRT for rectal cancer. Detailed examination of bacterial taxa and pathways mediating co-occurring symptoms is warranted.

Effectiveness of a Home-Based Exercise Intervention in the Fitness Profile of Hispanic Survivors of Breast Cancer

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Gut Microbiota and Depressive Symptoms at the End of CRT for Rectal Cancer: A Cross-Sectional Pilot Study

Gonzalez-Mercado, V. J., Lim, J., Saligan, L. N., Perez, N., Rodriguez, C., Bernabe, R., Ozorio, S., Pedro, E., Sepehri, F., & Aouizerat, B. (2021). Depression Research and Treatment, 2021. 10.1155/2021/7967552
Abstract
Abstract
Background. The role of alterations in gut microbiota composition (termed dysbiosis) has been implicated in the pathobiology of depressive symptoms; however, evidence remains limited. This cross-sectional pilot study is aimed at exploring whether depressive symptom scores changed during neoadjuvant chemotherapy and radiation therapy to treat rectal cancer, and if gut microbial taxa abundances and predicted functional pathways correlate with depressive symptoms at the end of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Methods. 40 newly diagnosed rectal cancer patients (ages 28-81; 23 males) were assessed for depressive symptoms using the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression (HAM-D) and provided stool samples for 16S rRNA sequencing. Gut microbiome data were analyzed using QIIME2, and correlations and regression analyses were performed in R. Results. Participants had significantly higher depressive symptoms at the end as compared to before CRT. The relative abundances of Gemella, Bacillales Family XI, Actinomyces, Streptococcus, Lactococcus, Weissella, and Leuconostocaceae were positively correlated (Spearman’s rho=0.42 to 0.32), while Coprobacter, Intestinibacter, Intestimonas, Lachnospiraceae, Phascolarctobacterium, Ruminiclostridium, Ruminococcaceae (UCG-005 and uncultured), Tyzzerella, and Parasutterella (Spearman’s rho=−0.43 to−0.31) were negatively correlated with HAM-D scores. Of the 14 predicted MetaCyc pathways that correlated with depressive symptom scores at the end of CRT, 11 (79%) were associated with biosynthetic pathways. Conclusions. Significant bacterial taxa and predicted functional pathways correlated with depressive symptoms at the end of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for rectal cancer which warrants further examination and replication of our findings.

Gut microbiota and fatigue in rectal cancer patients: a cross-sectional pilot study

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Consortium Building for Nurse Scientists Interested in Symptoms Research in the Era of Precision Health

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Gut microbiota differences in Island Hispanic Puerto Ricans and mainland non-Hispanic whites during chemoradiation for rectal cancer: A pilot study

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Gut microbiota perturbation is associated with acute sleep disturbance among rectal cancer patients

González-Mercado, V. J., Sarkar, A., Penedo, F. J., Pérez-Santiago, J., McMillan, S., Marrero, S. J., Marrero-Falcón, M. A., & Munro, C. L. (2020). Journal of Sleep Research, 29(3). 10.1111/jsr.12915
Abstract
Abstract
Cancer treatment-associated gut microbial perturbation/dysbiosis has been implicated in the pathobiology of sleep disturbance; however, evidence is scarce. Eighteen newly diagnosed rectal cancer patients (ages 52–81 years; 10 males) completed a sleep disturbance questionnaire and provided stool samples for 16s RNA gene sequencing during chemo-radiotherapy. Descriptive statistics, Wilcoxon test and regression analyses were computed. Regression analyses showed the Shannon's diversity index to be a significant factor associated with sleep disturbance. This preliminary work suggests that the biological “gut–brain axis” mechanism may be associated with symptoms of sleep disturbance.

Exploring the relationship between diarrhea and fatigue that can occur during cancer treatment: Using structural equation modeling

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