SEATTLE — Oct. 11, 2005 — Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center — home of the world's largest and most well-established research program dedicated to understanding the causes of cancer and how to prevent it — has received more than $18 million from the National Cancer Institute to help lead and coordinate a nationwide research effort to better understand the link between obesity and cancer.
The ultimate goal of the five-year, $54 million initiative, which will involve a diverse team of researchers from across the United States, is to avoid an increase in obesity-related cancer deaths in the 21st century similar to the death toll exacted by tobacco in the 20th century.
The Hutchinson Center is one of four research centers to receive funding for the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer, or TREC, initiative, and also serves as the coordinating hub for the effort.
The principal investigator of the Seattle-based TREC center is Hutchinson Center epidemiologist and internist Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., whose research focuses on identifying ways to prevent new or recurrent breast cancer and colorectal cancer with a particular focus on physical activity and exercise.
"We know there's an association between obesity, sedentary behavior and increased risk of certain cancers, such as colon and breast — that's been shown for some time. In fact, the American Cancer Society estimates that about 30 percent of cancer deaths are due to poor nutrition, excess weight and lack of exercise. Now we're trying to understand the link between cancer and obesity at a more fundamental, mechanistic level," said McTiernan, director of the Hutchinson Center's Prevention Center. The Prevention Center is a unique clinical-research facility where study participants work out in a state-of-the-art exercise laboratory or eat meals prepared in a nutritional-research kitchen. It is the only center of its kind in the United States that focuses exclusively on cancer-prevention research, McTiernan said.
The Hutchinson Center's success in conducting studies that aim to understand the interplay of nutrition, physical activity and diet on cancer prevention is one of the key factors that led to its selection as a TREC center, said McTiernan, a member of the Center's Public Health Sciences Division.
"A lot of our researchers are already interested in the association between obesity and cancer. We have a track record in this area. Another strength that positioned the Hutchinson Center to receive this highly competitive grant is that we have a history of close collaboration between our public-health scientists, who focus on understanding the roles of lifestyle and environment in cancer development, and our basic scientists, who conduct fundamental research to discover the biological mechanisms that underlie the causes of cancer and other diseases."
The principal investigator of the initiative's coordinating center is biostatistician Mark Thornquist, Ph.D., a senior staff scientist in the Hutchinson Center's Public Health Sciences Division. Under his direction the coordinating center will support communication, information dissemination, data sharing and collaboration among the TREC centers and with the NCI.
"The idea behind TREC was to create a consortium of researchers collaborating on studies to make scientific progress faster than four separate centers going their own way. The coordinating center will help with that," Thornquist said.
The other TREC centers are based at Case Western Reserve University, the University of Minnesota and University of Southern California.
The research network will encompass projects ranging from the biology and genetics of energy balance and energetics (the flow and transformation of energy through living systems) to the behavioral, sociocultural and environmental influences on nutrition, physical activity and weight.
The research to be conducted through the Hutchinson-based TREC center will be structured around five projects:
For more information about the TREC initiative, please visit www.cancercontrol.cancer.gov/TREC/.
WHAT: Nutrition and Exercise for Women (NEW) Study — A study that examines the effects of exercise and nutrition on breast-cancer risk factors. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center aims to recruit more than 500 Seattle-area participants (including 100 African-American and 100 Asian) for this National Cancer Institute-funded study, conducted by researchers in the center's Public Health Sciences Division.
WHO: The study seeks healthy overweight and sedentary postmenopausal women (ages 50 to 75) who live in the Seattle area and are willing to travel to Fred Hutchinson for a yearlong exercise or nutrition intervention. Eligibility requirements include being a nonsmoker, not using hormone therapy for the past six months, getting less than an hour of moderate activity per week, and having a body mass index of 25 or greater. Those who qualify must be willing to not participate in any other exercise or weight-loss programs during the 12-month study enrollment and must be willing to be randomly (like the toss of a coin) assigned to one of four following groups:
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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, our interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit www.fhcrc.org.