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WU studies obesity, cancer link with $9.2 million grant

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have been awarded a $9.2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study the relationship between obesity and cancer.

The five-year grant will fund the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Center. The Center's researchers will study the effect of diet, weight, physical activity and the environment on cancer and cancer survivorship.

"The emphasis is to bring together people from many disciplines, from both the Danforth Campus and the School of Medicine, to investigate the link between obesity and cancer," says epidemiologist Graham A. Colditz, MD, PhD, the Niess-Gain Professor at the School of Medicine and associate director of prevention and control at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "Our projects span from looking at cancer risk in animal models to studies of how workplace policies can influence sedentary behavior and cancer risk."

Over the long term, Colditz and his colleagues hope to reduce cancer related to obesity, poor diet and low levels of physical activity and to foster relationships between researchers in different disciplines.

"We want to link basic scientists with clinicians helping patients," says Sarah J. Gehlert, PhD, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity at the Brown School of Social Work and the School of Medicine and a co-principal investigator at the TREC Center. "If we can sit down in the same room, we can shape research projects that are more likely to result in a meaningful outcome, such as better treatments based on what we know from the basic science."

Studies funded by the grant will:

Examine the effects of nutrition, such as a mother's high fat diet, on cancer predisposition in multiple generations of mice. Study the influence of physical activity and obesity on urinary and sexual function in men following surgery to remove prostate cancer. Develop models of obesity across a lifespan to investigate how worksite policies and neighborhoods influence obesity and cancer risk. Investigate how policies relating to nutrition and a person's social environment might link obesity and cancer.

Washington University is one of only four TREC Centers funded by the NCI to investigate obesity and cancer, along with Harvard University; the University of California, San Diego and the University of Pennsylvania. A fifth coordinating center, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will help investigators at the four research institutions share data and collaborate on various projects. Funding for all five centers totals $45 million.


Contact: Julia Evangelou Strait
Washington University School of Medicine

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