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UTHSC’s Jefferies Receives $2.1 Million Grant for Childhood Cancer Research


John L. Jefferies, MD, MPH, Jay M. Sullivan Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine and chief of Cardiology in the College of Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, has received a $2.1 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, to study how exercise impacts childhood cancer survivors. His co-principal investigator is Kirsten K. Ness, PT, PhD, FAPTA, faculty member in the Department of Epidemiology and Cancer Control at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Dr. John Jefferies

Improvement in therapy for childhood cancer over the past five decades has resulted in five-year survival rates that exceed 80 percent. However, survivors are at increased risk for late-onset chronic health conditions that interfere with activities of daily life, reduce quality of life, and increase risk for early mortality. These risks are related to treatment exposures such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. As a result, survivors of childhood cancer are at risk for exercise intolerance at a relatively young age. This is important because optimal exercise capacity provides a foundation for daily function and is associated with cognitive reserve, future cardiovascular health, and life expectancy.

Dr. Jefferies, who also is the director of the UTHSC-Methodist Institute for Cardiovascular Science, and his research team will assess the potential effectiveness of an individually tailored aerobic and strengthening program delivered in the patient’s home.

“We will learn more about the impact of this intervention on exercise capacity and childhood cancer survivors,” he said. “We will also determine the effects of this tailored approach on the heart, lungs, musculoskeletal system, and nervous system. In addition, we will look at the effects of individually tailored aerobic and strengthening programs on emotional health and quality of life. The information gathered from the study will provide useful information on the long-term management of the growing population of adult survivors of childhood cancer.”

The grant titled, “Telehealth based exercise intervention to improve functional capacity in survivors of childhood cancer with significantly limited exercise tolerance,” will last for three years.The National Cancer Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health.