Dana Farber, Fitbit to study the impact of weight loss on breast cancer recurrence

By Aditi Pai
01:28 pm
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Dana Farber Cancer Institute has partnered with Fitbit to launch a two-year randomized study that will investigate the impact of weight loss on breast cancer recurrence. The study, called the Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) study, is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology.

“The increased risk of cancer recurrence linked to excess body weight threatens to limit our progress in treating breast cancer and preventing women from dying from this disease,” Jennifer Ligibel, a breast oncologist at Dana-Farber and lead investigator of the BWEL trial, said in a statement. “If this study shows that losing weight through increasing physical activity and reducing calories improves survival rates in breast cancer, this could lead to weight loss and physical activity becoming a standard part of the treatment for millions of breast cancer patients around the world.”

Dana Farber plans to enroll 3,200 overweight and obese women who have early stage breast cancer from oncology practices across the US and Canada. All participants will be equipped with Fitbit devices, which Fitbit is donating for the trial.

Participants will be randomized into two groups. In one group, participants will receive a health education program that provides breast cancer information. The other group will have access to this education program as well as a coach who views participant data and communicates with them via phone to help them reach their goals.

“It will be a challenge to help hundreds of women lose weight without actually ever meeting them face-to-face,” Ligibel said. “Fitbit products will allow coaches to see how participants are doing in terms of meeting their weight, physical activity and caloric goals, and step in when women need extra support to stay on track.”

Each participant will receive a Fitbit Charge HR device, which tracks activity and heart rate, as well as a Fitbit Aria WiFi Smart Scale, which monitors weight, BMI, lean mass, and body fat. Fitbit will also provide participants with access to FitStar, which is an app that offers exercise videos.

Hospitals and research organizations have been using Fitbits for their clinical trials for a while now. Recently, MobiHealthNews rounded up a number of clinical trials that have incorporated Fitbit devices.