Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Link Between Obesity and Cancer Under Scrutiny

From Medscape Medical News > Oncology

Nick Mulcahy

July 29, 2011– In an ongoing effort to better understand the link between obesity and cancer, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has refunded the initiative known as the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC).
The $45 million, 5-year program also will study ways to prevent obesity, particularly among children and cancer survivors.
The initiative's research projects range from the biologic and physiologic mechanisms of obesity to the behavioral, sociocultural, and environmental influences on nutrition, physical activity, and weight.
The underlying theme of all the research is the effort to understand the relation between energetics (energy under transformation) and cancer, according to a press statement from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington, which will act as TREC's coordinating center.
"NCI is very concerned about the epidemic of obesity and its implications for cancer," said Robert Croyle, PhD, director of NCI's division of cancer control and population sciences, in a press statement. "This investment reflects the urgency of the problem and the need to accelerate scientific progress to inform cancer-control strategies."
Obesity has been tied to the risk of either developing or dying from a variety of cancers, such as those of the breast, colon, and esophagus, in multiple studies, as reported by Medscape Medical News. The American Cancer Society has reportedly estimated that about 30% of cancer deaths are due to poor nutrition, excess weight, and lack of exercise.
The NCI launched the TREC initiative in 2005 with $54 million in initial funding, $5.3 million of which went to the Hutchinson Center to establish the coordinating hub.
TREC research will take place at 4 institutions in addition to the Hutchinson Center: Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts; University of California San Diego (UCSD); University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia; and Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.
One of the hallmarks of the study is cooperative, multidisciplinary research. "The idea behind TREC was to attack the problem of obesity and cancer with teams of researchers from many scientific fields, such as nutrition science, molecular epidemiology, and behavioral science," said Mark Thornquist, PhD, from the Hutchinson Center's public health sciences division, in a press statement. Dr. Thornquist will act as principal investigator of the initiative's coordinating center.
"By approaching the problem from many directions and collaborating across studies, we hope to make scientific progress faster than more narrowly focused research," he further explained.
One of the studies will look at insulin resistance and inflammation underlying the relation between energy balance and breast cancer, according to Ruth Patterson, PhD, a professor in the UCSD Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, and program leader of the cancer prevention and control program at Moores Cancer Center at the university.
"Our study aims to uncover the mechanistic links between obesity and breast cancer risk. If we understand the biological mechanisms linking obesity with risk, then we have the potential to design lifestyle interventions or identify drugs to reduce disease risk," she said in a press statement.

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