Weill Cornell Medical School
New York, New York
Understanding the connection between excess weight and breast cancer and designing effective weight loss interventions to reduce the risk of cancer posed by obesity.
Women with breast cancer who are overweight or obese experience poorer outcomes compared to those of average weight, despite standard local and adjuvant therapy. Many women gain weight following a breast cancer diagnosis, which may increase the risk of recurrence and death. Studies suggest that weight loss may be associated with improved breast cancer survival outcomes and Dr. Stearns is focused on enhancing interventions for weight loss to better understand the biological processes involved. Dr. Stearns’ research is designed to assess weight loss approaches and how they affect breast cancer biomarkers. Her team has designed and tested the POWER-remote study to evaluate the effectiveness of a remote (telephone-based) dietary counseling program in overweight or obese women with early-stage breast cancer. Dr. Stearns is also investigating the association between insufficient sleep and increased BMI/obesity. Collectively, this research has the potential to reduce the risk of breast cancer or its recurrence and thus improve outcomes for patients.
Dr. Stearns found that 46 percent of women enrolled in the POWER-remote intervention were successful in losing five percent of their bodyweight compared to their self-directed peers at 6 months. In addition, patients in the intervention group sustained their weight loss over 12 months and achieved a significant decrease in circulating factors related to breast cancer and cardiovascular risk. In related work, Dr. Stearns and her team are testing the combination of a weight loss medication (Contrave®) with POWER-remote in women with a history of breast cancer. The study called Adaptive Nutrition and Exercise Weight Loss (A-NEW) is enrolling patients for an eight-week intervention.
The team will validate their findings from the POWER-remote study in a larger trial and continue the A-NEW study ®. In addition, Dr. Stearns and her colleagues will evaluate the microbiome in both studies Collectively, these efforts will inform the development of new interventions and the design of future studies to reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence and death and, perhaps, prevent new breast cancer.
Vered Stearns, MD is the Director for Translational Breast Cancer Research in the Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Weill Cornell Medical School’s Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center where she is also Associate Director for Clinical Services. Prior to this, Dr. Stearns was Assistant Director for Faculty Affairs, the Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University. She also held the position as Director for Women’s Malignancies Disease Group at Kimmel Cancer Center.
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 as well as its role in the safety and efficacy of the drug. The work was extended to evaluate the role of genetic variants in aromatase inhibitor associated outcomes. She has conducted multiple translational studies designed to improve the wellness of those living with and beyond breast cancer.
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