Grantee: Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D.
Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D.
- University of Alabama at Birmingham
Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., R.D., is passionate about the intersecting fields of biochemistry, genetics, and behavioral science to explore novel approaches for preventing and controlling cancer, as well as mitigating side and late effects of treatment. Her research career has spanned basic science studies focused on determining mechanisms of action of food-related components on neoplastic progression, to clinical research that involves nutrition-related concerns of cancer patients. Her laboratory has conducted some of the first and largest studies exploring metabolic and body composition changes in response to cancer treatment. An area of research in which Dr. Demark-Wahnefried has experienced particular success is in the delivery of home-based lifestyle interventions aimed at improving the diet and exercise behaviors of cancer survivors.
The idea for the current R21 project initially came from a trial that Dr. Demark-Wahnefried and colleagues from the North Carolina Cooperative Extension pursued in attempts to motivate rural African Americans living in counties with high cancer rates to consume more fruits and vegetables. As one component of that project, master gardeners helped establish victory gardens at local churches - a strategy which proved effective. Years later and upon relocating to UAB, Dr. Demark-Wahnefried established contact with a county agent of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, and the idea of mentoring cancer survivors on a gardening project in an effort to improve diet quality came to fruition. A pilot project among a small sample of cancer survivors was launched and found to be feasible, yielding improvements not only in diet quality, but also in physical activity and physical functioning. If findings from the current R21 project continue to show promise, the multidisciplinary research team comprised of investigators, and patient advocates will go forward with a larger, regional-based trial. Dr. Demark-Wahnefried indicates that an ultimate benchmark of success is to determine whether the intervention can be nationally disseminated.
There are so many opportunities to discover new ways to prevent and control cancer and "ah-ha" moments are daily occurrences that spring from working in the laboratory, the clinic and the community. Being open and preparing oneself to actively receive or generate those ideas is the first step; however, finding the time, energy and most of all the resources to pursue a fraction of those ideas is the key and one that requires dogged determination.”
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