Funding Boosts IU Research Into Breast Cancer

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(Image of Theresa Guise [pictured left] and William Thompson [pictured right] Courtesy of Indiana University) (Image of Theresa Guise [pictured left] and William Thompson [pictured right] Courtesy of Indiana University)

A $1.6 million grant will help two Indiana University researchers study an alternative to drug treatments for women with breast cancer experiencing muscle weakness and bone loss. The U.S. Department of Defense funding will support examination of a low-intensity vibration therapy.

The treatment could potentially restrict muscle weakness and bone loss in patients and could possibly prevent existing breast cancer cells from spreading to bones. The three-year round of federal funding is part of the Breast Cancer Research Program Breakthrough Award program.

Current treatments, which remove estrogen from the body, could have major side effects.

IU oncology professor Theresa Guise and IU School of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences assistant professor William Thompson are co-authors in the research. Guise says "since low-intensity vibration therapies have effects on both bone and muscle, it has the potential to further reduce bone fracture risk by increasing bone density and reducing falls as well as by enhancing the effects of standard bisphosphonate therapy. It also may have a direct effect on the cancer cells to reduce tumor growth."

Thompson says "while exercise helps to prevent these effects, most patients experience severe fatigue and are at an increased fracture risk from strenuous activities. It is theorized that low-intensity vibration therapies may provide breast cancer patients with the same benefits of exercise, such as increased bone and muscle strength. Low-intensity vibration is a therapeutic intervention used to deliver very small magnitude mechanical forces to the body. These forces are barely detectable, and actually feel like the buzzing from something like an electric toothbrush."

The researchers will first examine the effects in mice, then test the therapies in human patients with breast cancer.

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