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Vered Stearns, MD
Professor of Oncology
Co-Director, Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program
Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
Member, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board
Seeking to reduce breast cancer recurrence through effective weight loss interventions.
Studies are ongoing to test the effectiveness of weight loss on gut microbial populations.
This study may provide additional clues to explain the risks associated with obesity and breast cancer outcomes.
Lifestyle factors can affect breast cancer risk. Being overweight or obese increases the risk of breast cancer after menopause and may result in worse outcome for women diagnosed with breast cancer at any age. Dr. Stearns is conducting studies to develop effective weight loss interventions and provide new clues to how weight loss may reduce the risk of breast cancer.
Full Research Summary
Excess body weight is a major risk factor for many cancers, including breast cancer. In addition, once diagnosed with breast cancer, women who are overweight or obese suffer worse outcomes.
Dr. Stearns' team is conducting a study to determine the effectiveness of a remote (telephone-based) dietary counseling program in overweight or obese women with early-stage breast cancer. Results of the trial, called POWER-remote, showed that 46 percent of women receiving the intervention vs. 11 percent in the non-intervention group, were successful at achieving a 5 percent weight loss. These data will be used to implement a standard clinical program for overweight and obese breast cancer patients being treated at Johns Hopkins clinics.
Recent studies have shown that the gut microbiome (the naturally occurring bacteria that inhabit the digestive system) influences human health and many diseases, including breast and other cancers. Few studies, however, have explored the impact of the microbial population on breast cancer.
This year, Dr. Stearns will continue to use the POWER-remote platform to assess how weight loss in overweight and obese patients alters the gut microbiome diversity and metabolism. The group predicts a 5 percent loss in body weight will alter the gut microbiome, possibly explaining one mechanism of the protective effects of weight loss. These results will be used to design new studies and to implement weight loss interventions for overweight or obese cancer patients in the clinic.
Dr. Stearns joined the faculty at the Breast Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in 2002. She was appointed as co-Director of the Breast Cancer Program in 2010, and to full Professor in 2013 and co-Director of the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Program in 2014.
Dr. Stearns’s long-term research goal is to improve current therapies by individualizing strategies for the treatment and prevention of breast cancer. Her main research includes utilization of biomarkers to predict response to standard regimens used to treat and prevent breast cancer and to introduce new treatments. Dr. Stearns and colleagues from the Consortium On Breast Cancer Pharmacogenomics (COBRA) Group were the first to evaluate the role of genetic variants in candidate genes such as CYP2D6 in tamoxifen metabolism, safety, and efficacy. The work has been extended to evaluate the role of genetic variants in aromatase inhibitor associated outcomes.