News Releases

Lessans Receives NIH Grant to Research Role Weight Plays in Outcomes of Breast Cancer Treatment in Post-Menopausal Women

August 22, 2016

Research team will explore treatment using two well-explicated mouse models. 

Sherrie Lessans headshot

 Baltimore, Md.  – Sherrie Lessans, PhD ‘10, RN, assistant professor and director, Clinical Nurse Leader option, University of Maryland School of Nursing (UMSON), has been awarded a grant from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Nursing Research to fund the project  Modeling Post-Menopausal Chemotherapy-Associated Weight Gain. Lessans’ award is for $460,817.

 Research suggests that weight may play a critical role in contributing to increased incidences of breast cancer and reduced survival outcomes among women after menopause. Lessans and her research team will explore treatment-associated weight and metabolic profiles using a clinically relevant chemotherapy triplet across two well-explicated mouse models of reproductive senescence. The study will be used to generate testable hypotheses to explore mechanisms underlying treatment-associated weight gain and to support intervention studies to complement ongoing human symptom science studies.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 50 percent of all women, and 70 percent of post-menopausal women, newly diagnosed with breast cancer, are overweight.  As a result, women in these categories are at an increased risk for larger, more aggressive tumors containing markers of high proliferation and more recurrence-prone hormone receptor positive tumors, which leads to a death rate nearly twice as high as women at a healthier weight who suffer from breast cancer.

“Inexplicably, many post-menopausal women who undergo chemotherapy will gain even more weight; on average between two to 10 kilograms. Very little is understood about this weight gain and there is no animal model to help us understand underlying biology,” Lessans said. “This grant will fund the critical animal modeling of post-menopausal weight gain, which holds great potential to understand this increasingly serious clinical issue in oncology care.”

In addition, this project will broadly expose UMSON’s entry-level and doctoral students to symptom science research as well as create compensated opportunities for student engagement in specific research endeavors.


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The University of Maryland School of Nursing, founded in 1889, is one of the oldest and largest nursing schools. Enrolling more than 1,700 students in its baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs, the School develops leaders who shape the profession of nursing and impact the health care environment.