Loras College and Medical Associates partner for clinical trial on cancer survivors

Robert Waterbury

Study focuses on physical activity and quality of life

DUBUQUE, Iowa – Loras College and Medical Associates Oncology, in conjunction with Mercy Hospital, have launched a cancer clinical trial on the College’s campus. The Loras Cancer Research in Exercise Science Laboratory (CARES Lab) focuses on evaluating the relationship between physical activity, prognosis, and quality of life in cancer survivors.

“Cancer survivors face many challenges specific to their cancer diagnosis and its associated treatment,” said Keith Thraen-Borowski, Ph.D., assistant professor of kinesiology and biology, and founder and director of CARES Lab. “Physical activity has been shown to mediate these challenges and improve a number of health outcomes in this population.”

While encouraging, Thraen-Borowski said most interventions attempting to increase physical activity in cancer survivors are typically conducted at major academic institutions and/or comprehensive cancer centers. Yet, he said, nearly 90 percent of cancer patients aren’t treated at such centers but in community settings.

Cancer survivors in Dubuque and the surrounding communities, he said, uniquely reflect the diverse backgrounds often associated with cancer, including those living in rural communities who typically don’t have access to treatment and programming at major cancer centers.

“We are essentially offering a public health service to the cancer survivors in the community by providing them with tools to assist them in navigating some of the challenges associated with having cancer,” Thraen-Borowski said.

Thraen-Borowski and his team of students will test the hypothesis that offering a physical activity program for cancer survivors is both feasible in a community hospital setting and improve quality of life in cancer patients from the greater Dubuque area. Cancer survivors who are medically able to participate in a physical activity program will be identified and referred by Medical Associates Oncology staff.

“We are very excited to be given the opportunity to work with Loras College on such a cutting-edge experience for our cancer patients,” said Eric Engelman, doctor of osteopathic medicine, internal medicine, hematology and oncology at Medical Associates. “Physical activity is such an important part of the well-being of our patients, and now they will have the opportunity to work with Keith’s team to receive the training and knowledge needed to carry on this lifestyle.”

Once enrolled, survivors will receive an individualized prescription for activity by Thraen-Borowski, tailored to their cancer type, diagnosis, fitness level, treatment and quality of life challenges. Participants then receive one-on-one supervision and feedback from student researchers from the CARES Lab inside Loras’ Athletic and Wellness Center.

The student collaborators are integral to the CARES Lab and gain valuable research experience in data collection and analysis, as well as working with a clinical population. They are also involved in Thraen-Borowski’s study on the effectiveness of feedback from fitness tracking devices on sedentary behavior.

“My students realize that the research that they are working on will be disseminated on a national scale, via medical journals and national conferences,” Thraen-Borowski said. “Perhaps more importantly, our work has the potential to influence the way physical activity is integrated into cancer patients’ survivorship care plans in the future.”                                                              

Visit or call 563.588.7215 for more information on the CARES Lab.

Keith Thraen-Borowski, Ph.D.
Assistant professor of kinesiology and biology, Loras College
Director, Loras Cancer Research in Exercise Science Laboratory (CARES Lab)

Ph.D. kinesiology, physical activity epidemiology emphasis
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Postdoctoral Fellow, cancer epidemiology, Department of Kinesiology, University of Wisconsin-Madison

National honors and awards
Fellow, Research Methods in Supportive Oncology Workshop (NCI_R25), Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School.

2012 and 2015
“Karen Hornbostel Memorial Award,” Cancer Interest Group, American College of Sports Medicine.

Professional memberships
American College of Sports Medicine
American Society of Clinical Oncology
Iowa Cancer Consortium

Numerous national presentations, invited talks, and published articles related to physical activity and health. Thraen-Borowski’s work has been featured on CBS’ Sunday Morning, Good Morning America, CNN, and in USA Today, the LA Times, and Reuters Health.

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