Spotlight on Nutrition and Physical Activity Grantees

The following are some of the nutrition and physical activity investigators currently being funded by the American Cancer Society who are working to find the answers that will save more lives and better prevent, treat, and manage cancer.

Genevieve Dunton, PhD, MPH, University of Southern California

Dunton is studying how people’s thoughts, moods, stress levels, and physiological sensations – such as pain, fatigue, and illness – influence their decisions to participate in physical activities during the day. Dunton is also looking at how neighborhood characteristics impact these behaviors. She plans to use the findings to inform the development of mobile device-based programs for promoting multiple short bouts of physical activity across the day.

Niyati Parekh, PhD, New York University

Parekh is studying the relationship between obesity and cancer by looking at the role excess blood insulin – a common issue among the obese – plays in the development and growth of cancer cells. Specifically, Parekh is investigating the connection between diets high in refined carbohydrates including sugars, white flour, and refined grains and the amount of insulin in a person’s blood stream. She hopes the results of the research will provide insights into how to best target the prevention of obesity-related cancers.

Larisa Nonn, PhD, University of Illinois

Nonn is investigating the role vitamin D plays in prostate cancer. Specifically, Nonn – using methods unique to her lab – is studying whether vitamin D can be used to alter the levels of a certain type of molecule associated with the development and progression of prostate cancer. Her findings could help open the door for new vitamin D targeted treatments. This is particularly important in prostate cancer as many elderly men – the group at highest risk – are deficient in vitamin D.

Jeremy Johnson, PharmD, PhD, University of Illinois

Johnson is studying whether the chemical carnosol, found in herbs such as rosemary and sage, can play a role in decreasing the incidence of prostate cancer. Johnson’s research lab has previously found that carnosol disrupts estrogen and testosterone – both of which are linked to the development and progression of prostate cancer. He is now studying if carnosol can be used in the prevention and/or treatment of prostate cancer.

Marcia C. Haigis, PhD, Harvard Medical School

Haigis is studying how cancer cells use sugar and various nutrients to make energy. When a cell becomes cancerous it undergoes a shift in how it uses sugar and nutrients. For example, cancer cells use more glucose (sugar) than normal cells do. Haigis is exploring what causes this change in cancer cells. She thinks it has something to do with a particular enzyme, called SIRT3. Hagis believes that a better understanding of SIRT3 could lead to insights into new ways to protect against the development of cancer.

From Our Researchers

The American Cancer Society employs a staff of full-time researchers who relentlessly pursue the answers that help us understand the relationship between nutrition and physical activity and cancer.