Funded by the Kay Yow Cancer Fund
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in general and among older women in particular. Adjuvant chemotherapy has played a major role in improving survival in both younger and older patients, but in older women, especially, its associated toxicities can lead to declines in function, quality of life, and even survival. For clinicians treating older women with a breast cancer diagnosis, how their patients survive and thrive during and after adjuvant chemotherapy is as important as preventing cancer recurrence and prolonging life. Toxicities that result in decreased physical activity and increased fatigue can lead to chronic detrimental changes in body composition, including loss of lean body mass, loss of muscle mass, and an increase in adipose tissue. Interventions to decrease these risks are needed. The overall goal of this research is to identify whether a home-based physical activity program initiated during adjuvant chemotherapy can attenuate the molecular and clinical consequences of adjuvant chemotherapy on the aging process in a sample of breast cancer patients age 65 or older. Specifically, this study will investigate the impact of an exercise program-a simple walking program that can meet the exercise needs of older cancer patients-on changes pre-and post-chemotherapy: (1) in a gene that is a dynamic biomarker of aging (p16INK4a) and (2) lean body mass, physical function, fatigue, and quality of life. The study will also evaluate how data from a wireless activity tracker correlates with measures of physical function and quality of life during chemotherapy. if it is shown that this easy-to-implement physical activity intervention can maintain function and lessen toxicity among older breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, it would be ideal for incorporation into adjuvant treatment in both academic and community-based cancer care settings.