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BCRF Grantee Since


Donor Recognition

The ANN INC. Award

Melinda L. Irwin, PhD, MPH

Associate Professor of Chronic Disease Epidemiology
Co-Leader, Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program
Yale Cancer Center
Yale School of Public Health
New Haven, Connecticut

Current Research

Dr. Irwin will conduct a randomized clinical trial in breast cancer survivors to examine what biological and biochemical changes occur in breast tissue with exercise and dietary-induced weight loss. Patients in this study will be randomized to either receiving a diet and exercise regimen or usual care and breast biopsies will be obtained before and after the six-month intervention. Dr. Irwin’s goal is to better understand the biological mechanisms that mediate the beneficial effect of exercise and weight loss on breast cancer prognosis and risk of developing breast cancer.

Mid-Year Summary

Dr. Irwin’s team is conducting bio-behavioral research investigating the biological mechanisms that mediate behavioral interventions in women with breast cancer. Specifically, they are building upon their previous trials that have examined the effect of exercise and weight loss on breast cancer treatment side effects by examining the effect of these behavioral interventions on biological markers of breast cancer risk and mortality including: biochemical metabolites, microRNAs, serum markers (insulin, IGFs, leptin, adiponectin, CRP, IL-6 and TNF-alpha) and breast tissue biomarkers. They have had bloods analyzed that were stored from two previously conducted trials (an exercise trial and a weight loss trial), and are currently conducting statistical analyses to submit abstracts and manuscripts that examine the impact of exercise and weight loss on serum biomarkers in breast cancer survivors. In the past three months, the researchers have also obtained IRB approval, developed all the questionnaires and intervention material to begin a 6-month randomized controlled weight loss trial with breast biopsies conducted at baseline and 6-months to examine weight loss effects on breast tissue biomarkers including: aromatase expression, cell proliferation (ki-67), crown-like structures, metabolites and certain microRNAs. Their goal is to better understand the biological mechanisms mediating the effect of exercise and weight loss on breast cancer prognosis, in order to develop more personalized lifestyle prescriptions, which in turn may lead to a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence and mortality.


Dr. Melinda Irwin is an Associate Professor in the Yale School of Public Health and co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Program at the Yale Cancer Center. Dr. Irwin's primary research interest involves examining lifestyle factors, in particular exercise and weight, in relation to cancer prevention and control. She is currently the principal investigator of two National Cancer Institute funded randomized controlled trials examining the impact of exercise on improving cancer biomarkers and side effects of cancer treatment in breast and ovarian cancer patients. Dr. Irwin is also the principal investigator of an American Institute for Cancer Research-funded weight loss trial in overweight breast cancer survivors and co-investigator on a pre-operative trial of exercise on tumor markers in newly diagnosed breast cancer survivors. She is also involved in a number of large prospective cohort studies in women and cancer survivors.

Dr. Irwin has published extensively on related topics in peer-reviewed medical journals and book chapters, and has presented her research internationally. She has also served on various research review committees for the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, as well as on advisory committees to develop consensus statements on physical activity, weight, diet and cancer prevention and control.