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Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD
Public Health Sciences Division
University of Washington
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Goal: To characterize the effect of exercise and weight loss on markers of breast cancer risk in women of all body sizes and fitness levels.
Impact: Dr. McTiernan has launched the first-ever clinical trial to test the immediate effects of exercise on markers related to breast cancer. If the markers are significantly altered, it could help support guidelines for daily exercise for breast cancer prevention—and it may indicate that exercise even without weight loss is beneficial.
What’s next: The team will measure markers related to inflammation and angiogenesis—both of which contribute to cancer—in women enrolled in their exercise study and will also determine whether the effects differ between normal weight and overweight/obese women. They also plan to look at how exercise affects cell growth in a model of breast tumor cells.
There is a clear association between being overweight or obese and an increased risk of breast cancer. Dr. McTiernan and others have shown that weight loss has long-term, significant effects on biological factors linked to breast cancer risk. She is currently studying whether physical activity—which decreases breast cancer risk and is associated with improved survival—without weight loss will confer the similar benefits in women, regardless of their size and fitness level.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Studying the effects of short bouts of exercise and weight loss on biological factors linked to breast cancer risk in women of all body sizes and fitness levels.
Impact: Physical activity is associated with reduced breast cancer risk and improved survival for women of all ages. That may be due in part to its effects on weight; Dr. McTiernan and others have shown that weight loss has significant, long-term effects on biological factors linked to breast cancer risk. However, exercise may reduce risk in other ways beyond weight loss, and some of its biological effects are greatest in the hours after a workout. Dr. McTiernan is studying the acute effects of exercise on biomarkers of breast cancer risk in women of varying sizes and fitness levels, the results of which may be informative in assessing risk and developing prevention interventions.
Current investigation: Dr. McTiernan and her team launched the ACute Effects of Exercise in Women (ACE) trial, which is the first-ever clinical trial to test the immediate effects of exercise on biomarkers related to breast cancer.
What’s next: The team will measure biomarkers related to inflammation and angiogenesis and determine whether the effects differ between normal-weight and overweight/obese women. They also plan to look at how exercise affects cell growth in a 3-D model of breast tumor cells.
Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD is a Full Member at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Research Professor at the University of Washington Schools of Medicine and Public Health in Seattle. Dr. McTiernan’s research focuses on identifying ways to prevent new or recurrent breast cancer with physical activity, obesity prevention and treatment, and chemoprevention. She is Principal Investigator of several clinical trials and cohort studies investigating the effects of exercise, diet, weight, hormones, and chemoprevention agents on breast cancer incidence and prognosis. She was PI of the National Cancer Institute funded Seattle Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer program that investigated obesity prevention and mechanisms linking overweight, obesity and sedentary lifestyles with breast cancer.
Dr. McTiernan is an elected Fellow in the American College of Sports Medicine, the Obesity Society, and the American College of Epidemiology. She has published more than 400 scientific manuscripts in major medical journals and is lead author of the book, Breast Fitness (St. Martin’s Press, 2000). She is editor of two academic texts: Cancer Prevention and Management through Exercise and Weight Control (CRC Press LLL, 2005) and Physical Activity, Dietary Calorie Restriction, and Cancer (Springer; 2010). Her memoir, Starved: A Nutrition Doctor’s Journey from Empty to Full (Central Recovery Press) was published in 2016. She has served on national and international health advisory boards and working groups including the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the American Cancer Society, the US Department of Health and Human Services Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committees, the World Cancer Research Foundation, and the Komen for the Cure Scientific Advisory Council.
BCRF Investigator Since
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