Kathryn A. Cunningham directs a successful research program focused on the role of serotonin neurotransmission in behavior, and is considered one of the world leaders in the role of serotonin in drug abuse and addiction. While some investigators have suggested the potential for new medications based upon selective serotonergic actions, Dr. Cunningham's research has pushed forward this field in understanding the mechanisms of action that will best achieve this end result. Her most recent successes have evolved from her detailed pharmacological and anatomical studies pinpointing the critical roles of the 5-HT2AR and 5-HT2C receptors in the behavioral response to abused drugs. Her studies have uncovered the significance of these proteins not only in the effects of psychostimulants, but also in the function of the reward system in general. Dr. Cunningham is currently employing a cross-disciplinary approach which includes collaborative efforts with medicinal chemists and clinical scientists to develop and test novel compounds that act on these receptors in an effort to new medications for the treatment of psychostimulant dependence. Dr. Cunningham is also active in education and teaches medical and graduate students, residents and other health care professionals in the neurobiology of drug abuse and addiction, serotonin neuropharmacology and pharmacotherapeutics for psychiatric disorders. Author of over 80 research manuscripts, Dr. Cunningham's research has been funded continuously for 19 years by the NIDA, is the Director of a NIDA Center (Translational Center for Serotonin and Stimulant Addiction) and is the recipient of a NIDA Senior Scientist (K05) Award. She is also the Co-Director of a NIDA institutional training grant and has mentored over 20 pre- and post-doctoral students in addiction research. Dr. Cunningham is the Past-President of the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD) and active member of the CPDD Executive Committee. She also served a 3-year stint on the Board of Directors (2000-2003) and as chairman of the CPDD Publications Committee (1999-2003). Dr. Cunningham serves on NIH study sections (1992-2007), is the Associate Editor of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, and an editorial board member for Neuropsychopharmacology and Behavioral Neuroscience.
Dr. Cunningham received the 2007 ASPET-Astellas Award for Translational Pharmacology and has been the recipient of numerous fellowships and travel awards. She was named the Hedwig van Ameringen designate at the Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine Program for Women in 2000 and honored as the 2001 Distinguished Faculty Research Award at UTMB. She is also active in her community and currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Women's Program in Galveston, Texas. She lectures on drug abuse, addiction and mental health at community treatment programs and Galveston College and is on the Steering Committee for the Mayor's Roundtable on Drug Abuse, Homelessness and Crime.