$2.5 million grant awarded for cancer research: Kerri Winters-Stone

01/19/18  Portland, OR

Dr. Kerri Winters-Stone’s was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute for a 5-year study to evaluate the benefits of a partnered exercise program.

About the Project
Benefits of exercise have been shown to offer symptomatic relief from side effects of cancer treatment and improve quality of life among cancer survivors. However, these studies focus only on the individual with cancer and ignore the impact of cancer on a survivor’s spouse/partner, who is often a caregiver, and on the couple’s relationship. Since the health of married partners is often intertwined, they can have a tremendous influence on each other’s well-being and survival in either a negative or positive way. Winters-Stone and her colleagues, including Dr. Karen Lyons in the School of Nursing and Dr. Tom Beer in the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, developed and pilot tested a novel exercise approach, “Exercising Together,” to address the triple threat that cancer poses to the physical and mental health of both survivors and spouses and to their marital relationship. Their Exercising Together program adapts exercise as a shared, team-based activity where partners exercise as a training team. Exercise research

This next study will build on this project which was the first to focus on the interdependent nature of the couple through partnered exercise that promotes relationship building, and that also considers the health of the survivor and his/her spouse and their relationship as equally important targets. The current grant proposes a larger, more rigorous evaluation of Exercising Together, expanding the sample to include couples coping early on with other common cancers (prostate, breast, and colorectal cancers), measuring clinically relevant outcomes and including comparison groups that will allow us to distinguish the unique benefits of partnered training on individual and couple health.

Winters-Stone will lead a multidisciplinary team that includes Dr. Lyons in psychology, Dr. Tom Beer and Dr. Michael Savin in medical oncology, Dr. Christopher Lee in biobehavioral nursing (now at Boston College) and Dr. Nate Dieckmann in biostatistics. This work is of high public health and clinical significance since the number of aging, married cancer survivors will double over the next 20 years. Exercising Together could shift the paradigm of survivorship care toward novel team-based approaches that capitalize on the interdependent nature of the couple to optimize individual and couple outcomes, with strong potential to broaden beyond cancer to other illness contexts, greatly increasing the impact of this innovative work.