Researcher to study the effect of exercise on breast cancer metastases

Marjorie S. Miller
February 02, 2018

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Connie Rogers, associate professor of nutrition and physiology in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Penn State, has been awarded a scientific research grant by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).

Rogers' study will investigate the effect of exercise and the prevention of weight gain in breast cancer progression and metastases, one of seven national projects to receive a research grant from the AICR. Each of the funded research projects are designed to better understand the relationship of diet, nutrition, physical activity and weight to cancer prevention and survivorship.

"I am incredibly grateful to AICR for funding this research because lifestyle factors contribute significantly to breast cancer risk and progression," Rogers said. "AICR is one of the few agencies interested in funding work that explores the relationship between diet, exercise and cancer risk. Funding from AICR will allow us to explore the biological mechanisms underlying the cancer prevention effect of exercise and the prevention of weight gain on breast cancer risk and progression, which would have enormous clinical and public health impact."

Metastases — the spread of cancer cells beyond the initial cancer site — contribute significantly to the mortality of breast cancer patients, Rogers said, and is one of the most important unsolved questions in breast cancer research.

Regular physical activity has been shown to significantly improve survival in breast cancer patients. However, this relationship is not well understood, she said.

"We have preliminary data demonstrating that exercise and the prevention of weight gain can reduce primary tumor growth, reduce metastatic burden and improve survival in an animal model of metastatic breast cancer," Rogers said. "The work proposed through this grant will determine if exercise and the prevention of weight gain are preventing metastases and improving survival by enhancing the immune system which may protect against tumor growth, and inhibit some of the immune suppressive factors that emerge when tumors grow and metastasize."

For example, Rogers and colleagues propose to explore how exercise and the prevention of weight gain might enhance immune function, and the dose, duration and frequency of exercise needed to achieve the cancer prevention effects. This information would allow researchers to either design better clinical trials to test the "dose" of exercise in women or make evidence-based decisions on recommendations for an exercise prescription in breast cancer survivors, Rogers said.

The AICR, founded in 1982, funds cutting-edge research and gives people practice tools and information to help them prevent and survive cancer. Over three decades, AICR-funded research has helped transform how the scientific and medical communities think about cancer. AICR has contributed more than $107 million in supporting a pipeline of studies conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers. For more information visit

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Last Updated February 02, 2018