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Keck to study link between cancer and obesity

Monday, October 24, 2005

The USC school received a $12.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute.

By: Carley Dryden

Posted: 10/24/05

The National Cancer Institute awarded the USC Keck School of Medicine a $12.1 million grant to study the relationship between obesity and cancer risk in minority children, as part of the new Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer initiative, according to a press release from the National Institute of Health News.

The NCI TREC initiative's goal is to join together the study of diet, weight and physical activity and their effects on cancer through research centers that focus on energy balance and energetics - the study of the flow and transformation of energy through living systems.

The TREC initiative will fund four centers, the Keck School of Medicine at USC, the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the University of Minnesota, with a five-year, $54 million initiative, according to a press release.

"This is a very exciting initiative because it brings together faculty from a wide variety of research backgrounds from various centers across the US to work together to understand the complex link between obesity and cancer," said Dr. Michael Goran, principal investigator of the project at the Keck School of Medicine.

The center at the Keck School of Medicine, under the direction of Goran and co-principal investigator, Dr. Leslie Bernstein, will explore the physiological, metabolic, genetic, behavioral and environmental influences on obesity and cancer risk in minority children.

"We are especially excited because the USC TREC Center is the only one that is focused specifically on identifying factors during early childhood development that may contribute to lifelong cancer risk. Preventing obesity during childhood remains one of the most promising approaches for reducing the long-term burden of cancer in the population," Goran said.

The center will work on three main projects.

Goran will lead Project 1, which aims to determine ethnic differences in body fat distribution, insulin resistance, insulin-like growth factors and binding proteins, inflammatory markers and oxidative stress in overweight black and Hispanic children during the critical period of adolescent growth. This project will then examine the effects of exercise and diet interventions on improving these metabolic risk factors.

Dr. Donna Spruijt-Metz will lead Project 2, whose goal is to determine the physiological and psychological causes of the decline in physical activity in black and Hispanic girls during puberty.

"I did stupid things about my health when I was a kid and I've always been fascinated in diet and exercise and why many adolescents don't care about their health," said Metz.

"Also, I have always been fascinated with different cultures and the fate of blacks and Latinos in this society. We know obesity is related to cancer and it is in epidemic proportions in youth. We are trying to lower the incidence of obesity in children," Metz said.

Dr. Michael Jerrett will lead Project 3, which will examine changes in body weight over 10 years in more than 10,000 children from across various communities in Southern California and then identify factors in the environment contributing to excessive weight gain during childhood growth, Goran said.

In addition the USC TREC center will support research cores, a new pilot study program, as well as training and career development in transdisciplinary research on the link between obesity and cancer.

"These projects are designed to help prevent obesity through innovative and effective approaches, which affect the population at the social, environmental and policy levels. With strong interactions across TREC centers, the coordination center will foster collaborations, facilitate data analyses and evaluate progress," said Dr. Linda Nebeling, acting associate director of NCI's Behavioral Research Program, in the press release. © Copyright 2008 Daily Trojan



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