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July 15, 2019 | 2 minute read

Sydney Smith Cancer Research Initiative Grant

The research project titled, “High-intensity interval training to improve cognitive function in breast cancer survivors undergoing chemotherapy” is the inaugural recipient of AICR’s new Sydney Smith Cancer Research Initiative Grant.


This study is being led by Dr. Christina Dieli-Conwright at the University of Southern California. “The Sydney Smith Cancer Research Initiative Grant will be extremely helpful in conducting this study,” said Dr. Dieli-Conwright. “We have to do functional MRI of the brain, which obviously has high costs associated it.”


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The project addresses the phenomenon of “chemo brain,” a condition that causes thinking and memory problems that are experienced by many people during, and sometimes after, chemotherapy. Dr. Dieli-Conwright explained that her research will examine whether exercise can improve brain function in breast cancer survivors undergoing chemotherapy. Participants will follow a 16-week high-intensity interval-training program designed specifically for breast cancer survivors. The research team will then assess whether this exercise program significantly reduced the cognitive problems associated with chemotherapy compared to a control group not following the exercise program.

As the number of cancer survivors has grown, so has the need for research into the potential for lifestyle factors to improve outcomes, including quality of life, in cancer survivors. AICR is increasingly addressing these survivor needs. We have known for over 20 years that diet, physical activity and body weight contribute to cancer risk and now there is emerging evidence showing that these factors are also important in healthy cancer survivorship.

“Dr. Dieli-Conwright’s research offers the potential to reduce the distressing cognitive impairments that may occur during and after chemotherapy,” says Vice President of Research, Dr. Nigel Brockton. “We are investing in projects like this because AICR’s panel of expert grant reviewers recognizes the direct impact that understanding these conditions, and the role of lifestyle factors in alleviating them, could have on the lives of cancer survivors.”

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) recently instituted the Sydney Smith Cancer Research Initiative Grant to honor the life of a major supporter who died after a second bout of cancer. Mr. Smith was an ardent supporter of AICR’s cause and donated more than $2.5 million to AICR to support research on the relationship between diet, nutrition, physical activity, body weight and cancer prevention and survivorship.


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