Physician-scientists at University Hospitals Case Medical Center’s Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine are leading a new study exploring the impact of exercise on outcomes for older breast cancer survivors.
The five-year study will test the effect of physical activity on functional status, body composition and biomarkers associated with breast cancer prognosis among older breast cancer survivors, with a special focus on older African American and low socioeconomic status women. Funded by a $2.8 million grant from the National Institute on Minority Health and Disparities to the School of Medicine, the clinical trial is currently recruiting early-stage breast cancer survivors over the age of 65.
The study is led by Cynthia Owusu, MD, Principal Investigator, and a team of investigators from University Hospitals, Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth Medical Center and The Gathering Place in Beachwood.
“Despite major advances in breast cancer care, senior adults with the disease, most notably African American and low-income women, tend to have poorer outcomes following treatment,” says Dr. Owusu, geriatric oncologist at UH Seidman Cancer Center and Associate Professor at the School of Medicine. “Our study addresses two major health issues, functional disability and obesity, which have enormous public health consequences including increased health care utilization and costs, and mortality. We aim to determine if adding a sustainable exercise program can translate into long-term improved health and breast cancer survival in older women.”
Dr. Owusu and her research team conducted previous research, presented at American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), finding that 25 percent of older women with newly diagnosed breast cancer had lower physical function and difficulty accomplishing daily tasks within one year of diagnosis. The team also found that African Americans and women of lower socioeconomic status were four times more likely to present at diagnosis with functional disability and two times more likely to have poor physical performance.
“We need to develop strategies to improve breast cancer outcomes for this large subgroup of survivors,” says Dr. Owusu. “Exercise can play a role in enhancing their long-term health. We will measure the impact of physical activity on participants’ body composition and their physical function. We will also look at the impact on biomarkers associated with breast cancer recurrence.”
The study aims to recruit 320 stage I-III patients aged 65 years and older who are less than two years out from treatment completion. Participants will take part in the clinical trial that will randomize patients to an exercise program at The Gathering Place.
“Our hope is that this study will show that a targeted physical activity program can address functional disability and reduce disparities among older women with breast cancer, but in particular African American and low-income breast cancer survivors,” says Dr. Owusu. “Our aim is that this early intervention will lead to improvement in the functional and health status of this group, optimizing their long-term benefits from breast cancer treatment.”
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.