Kay Yow Cancer Fund awards $1 million research grant to UNC Lineberger

The Kay Yow Cancer Fund®, in partnership with The V Foundation for Cancer Research, has awarded a $1 million women’s cancer research grant to UNC Lineberger to evaluate the impact of physical activity among breast cancer survivors. The grant was awarded to UNC Lineberger to conduct a Phase II, four-year controlled trial to evaluate the impact of a physical activity intervention program on biomarkers of aging and body composition among breast cancer survivors, age 65 and older, who are receiving adjuvant or neoadjuvant chemotherapy. The research project will be conducted as a national, multi-site collaboration with the Cancer and Aging Research Group, UNC Hospitals, affiliated community clinics and the Alliance for Clinical Trials and Oncology.

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(L to R) UNC Lineberger Geriatric Oncology Program Director Hyman Muss, MD, UNC Cancer Care Director Shelley Earp, MD, UNC Women’s Basketball Coach Sylvia Hatchell, UNC Lineberger Board of Visitors member and breast cancer survivor Laura Jensen, Executive Director of the Kay Yow Cancer Fund Susan Donohoe, and The V Foundation for Cancer Research Chief Executive Officer Susan Braun with a ceremonial check at UNC Lineberger

This grant is an expansion of a well-established base of research being conducted at UNC Lineberger on aging and breast cancer. Dr. Hy Muss collaborated with other UNC researchers on a pilot study to test the Arthritis Foundation’s Walk With Ease self-directed walking program, which they adapted for breast cancer patients.

Sherdinia Thompson-Dunn, 68, of Carrboro participated in the pilot study. Thompson-Dunn, a 1967 graduate of UNC, found some pleasant surprises when she began the self-directed walking program in October 2013.

“When I first started the walking program, I was having some pain and stiffness in my joints, and I wasn’t sure I would be able to find the time to walk,” said Thompson-Dunn. “I started slow – walking four blocks around my neighborhood, then gradually I worked up to eight blocks. After a while, I was surprised to find that I would look forward to walking.”

Although retired, Ms. Thompson-Dunn has a busy life helping to care for her mother and taking care of four young grand-nieces after school during the week. She says her husband, Sinatra Dunn encouraged her to make time for herself and stick with the walking program, and she is glad she did. “Walking gives me a mental clarity,” she explains. “It’s like a wind-up that gives you energy for the whole day.”

For this pilot study, Dr. Muss and his colleagues were particularly interested in testing the feasibility and benefits of a walking program among older breast cancer survivors.

 “Breast cancer is a disease of aging. In fact, most people in the U.S. with breast cancer are now 65 and older," said Dr. Muss. “We know that incorporating simple, routine exercise—like walking—into a patient’s treatment plan helps maintain function and improve overall quality of life. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to grow this program, help more breast cancer patients and see it realized on a national scale.”

The Kay Yow Cancer Fund worked in collaboration with The V Foundation Scientific Advisory Board to review and award this grant proposal. The V Foundation Scientific Advisory Board administers the competitive grant application process for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

“The V Foundation is honored to be involved in the selection and administration of this grant,” said Susan Braun, chief executive officer, The V Foundation.  “Proposals were received from around the country. Dr. Muss’ proposal was selected as the top ranking grant in this very competitive process.” For more information about the Kay Yow Cancer Fund $1 million research grant and to view photos of the events, visit www.kayyow.com or www.facebook.com/kayyowcancerfund.