New study evaluates yoga’s benefits for breast cancer survivors

Contact: Cliff Despres, (210) 562-6517

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (July 21, 2011)—In response to staggering obesity and breast cancer mortality rates, a new local study is testing how different types of exercise—like yoga—best improve cancer survivors’ fitness, quality of life and molecular indicators of future risk.

The project, Improving Mind and Physical Activity (IMPACT), is led by the Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) in the School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Over the yearlong study, 90 survivors will be randomized to participate at least three times a week in: 1) a comprehensive exercise “prescription” featuring individualized aerobics, strength-training and flexibility; 2) a yoga exercise program; or 3) general exercise chosen at will.

Study recruitment is underway. For eligibility, call 210-593-2669.

“We expect comprehensive and yoga-focused participants to have better fitness outcomes, less stress and improved biological indicators of future risk of secondary cancers,” said study co-principal investigator Dr. Daniel Hughes, assistant professor at the IHPR. The study, funded by Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is led by IHPR Director Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez and features a team of translational researchers at the Cancer Therapy and Research Center.

Each comprehensive exercise participant will be “prescribed” an individual exercise routine to follow. They also will be encouraged to attend group exercise classes offered by the Deriving Inspiration & Vitality through Activity (DIVA) program from the Thrivewell Cancer Foundation. Thrivewell is sponsored by the South Texas Accelerated Research Therapeutics (START) Center, which directs clinical trials of novel anticancer agents in San Antonio.

Yoga group participants will be asked to attend three yoga classes a week through classes led by Nydia Tijerina Darby of Nydia’s Yoga Therapy in San Antonio.

General participants will be encouraged to exercise in DIVA classes or other activities.

Participants in all three groups will take a fitness test and undergo measurements at the start and end of the study. Participants also will answer briefs surveys and fill out exercise logs.

“Regular exercise promotes health by reducing risk for primary and secondary breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity,” Dr. Ramirez said. “If we achieve our aims, we can find ways to best improve breast cancer survivors’ health and quality of life.”

The study team also is testing exercise’s impact on survivors at the molecular level.

Specifically, molecular researchers Drs. Rong Li, Sagar Ghosh, and Nicolas Musi will test how the different types of exercise impacts participants’ levels of adipose stromal cells (ASCs). ASCs in blood have been increasingly recognized as an important source for a variety of cancer-promoting factors, including estrogens and cytokines. Other biomarkers to be studied include tumor necrosis factor (TNF), Interleukin 6 (IL-6), adiponectin and C-reactive protein. Dr. Hughes will also be looking at salivary cortisol, a known biomarker of stress.

It is possible that obese people have increased number of ASCs that may aid in cancer progression and distribution of tumor cells to distant organ sites—highlighting a potential target for disease prognosis, or perhaps therapies, including exercise.

“Our ultimate goal is to explore the utility of circulating ASCs as a biomarker for disease prognosis and for measuring efficacy of approaches to increase survival and reduce disease recurrence,” Dr. Li said.

Clinics, physicians or other health professionals should e-mail Amanda Sintes-Yallen at to request IMPACT brochures or cards to hand out to patients.

The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, one of the country’s leading health sciences universities, ranks in the top 3 percent of all institutions worldwide receiving federal funding. Research and other sponsored program activity totaled $228 million in fiscal year 2010. The university’s schools of medicine, nursing, dentistry, health professions and graduate biomedical sciences have produced approximately 26,000 graduates. The $744 million operating budget supports eight campuses in San Antonio, Laredo, Harlingen and Edinburg. For more information on the many ways “We make lives better®,” visit

The Institute for Health Promotion Research (IHPR) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio investigates the causes and solutions to the unequal impact of cancer and chronic disease among certain populations, including Latinos, in San Antonio, South Texas and the nation. The IHPR, founded in 2006, uses evidence-guided research, training and community outreach to improve the health of those at a disadvantage due to race/ethnicity or social determinants, such as education or income. Visit the IHPR online at

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