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Jennifer Sheng, MD
Medical Oncology Fellow
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (SKCCC)
Johns Hopkins University
Conquer Cancer Foundation of ASCO
Goal: To identify effective weight loss interventions for overweight or obese breast and cancer survivors.
Impact: Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer after menopause and reduces survival in breast cancer patients at any age. Women often gain weight after breast cancer treatment or find it hard to lose weight by conventional means. Dr. Sheng’s work is focused on improving weight loss success rates in breast cancer survivors and breast cancer outcomes.
What’s next: Dr. Sheng will evaluate the effect of an FDA-approved weight loss medication as an addition to a behavioral program that coaches breast cancer survivors to lose weight.
Women with early stage breast cancer who are obese either at diagnosis or after treatment have inferior outcomes compared to women who are not overweight. While overweight breast cancer survivors often participate in various weight-loss programs, many are unable to achieve significant weight loss. Dr. Sheng will evaluate whether appetite-targeting drugs may significantly help this group of breast cancer survivors lose weight.
Full Research Summary
Research area: Developing an effective weight loss intervention to improve survival outcomes in obese or overweight breast cancer survivors.
Impact: Although weight loss medications may augment lifestyle modifications for weight loss, no clinical trials have evaluated these drugs in breast cancer survivors. Being overweight or obese after a breast cancer diagnosis can result in poor outcomes but losing a substantial amount of weight is difficult to achieve with lifestyle modifications alone. In her Conquer Cancer Foundation research, supported by BCRF, Dr. Sheng will test the combination of an approved weight loss drug with diet and exercise to help breast cancer survivors achieve healthy weight goals.
Current investigation: Dr. Sheng is running a phase II clinical trial to test whether Contrave®—a drug that is thought to target the brain’s hunger center and reward system—will benefit breast cancer survivors when added to a behavioral weight loss program. She will evaluate the effect of the addition of Contrave® to a behavioral weight loss intervention program—which all participants will receive—in overweight or obese breast cancer survivors. Those who do not manage to achieve at least 5 percent weight loss after 8 weeks of weight-loss coaching will be randomized to receive Contrave® or placebo.
Dr. Sheng completed her undergraduate studies in Biology and Psychology in the accelerated medical program at Rutgers University in 2010 while on full scholarship. She received her medical degree from the UMDNJ-New Jersey Medical School in 2013. She is currently in her third year of fellowship training in Medical Oncology at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (SKCCC) at Johns Hopkins and will be starting on faculty as Assistant Professor in July.
She is working under the mentorship of Drs. Vered Stearns and Antonio Wolff on projects in clinical research in breast cancer. The overall goals of her research are improving quality of life and addressing comorbidity in breast cancer survivors, optimizing transitions of care and survivorship care visits and furthering obesity management in breast cancer patients.