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Weight-Loss Trial Targets Breast Cancer

CancerWise - April 2008

By Deborah Aranda

Researchers are studying whether the mother-daughter bond can help promote weight loss in overweight breast cancer patients and their overweight, adult daughters in a new clinical trial at two cancer centers.

Goal of the study

In the trial, titled "Daughters and MothErS Against Breast Cancer" (DAMES), researchers at M. D. Anderson and Duke University Medical Center are asking participants to exercise and improve their diets as individuals or as members of mother-daughter teams.

The goal is not only to study the effects of the mother-daughter relationship on making lifestyle changes but also to determine what tools help motivate participants.

Researchers are studying three different home-based approaches to change lifestyle behaviors. Women in the study are given resources ranging from health newsletters and diet/exercise journals to pedometers and Apple iPods.

Significance of the study

Findings ultimately may be used for studies aimed at promoting weight loss to help prevent breast cancer recurrence and other diseases in breast cancer survivors. Results also will be used for studies encouraging weight loss to reduce the risk of breast cancer among breast cancer survivors’ daughters.

According to a 2006 report by the American Cancer Society, obesity increases the risk of all cancers, including breast cancer.

“We know that being overweight is a risk factor for developing breast cancer, and this study helps women actually do something to reduce their risk," says Wendy Demark-Wahnefried, Ph.D., a professor in M. D. Anderson's Department of Behavioral Science and principal investigator on the M. D. Anderson study. “To be successful, we need to know what kind of tools and support are needed to motivate women to adopt healthier lifestyles.”

Study description

Researchers hope to recruit 134 mothers and their daughters to the one-year trial. To enroll, potential participants must first complete a set of telephone surveys, as well as an in-person assessment (conducted at M. D. Anderson, Duke University Medical Center or at home by a visiting nurse).

Eligible mother-daughter pairs are divided into groups:

Group one – Mothers and daughters in this group will receive an initial workbook and then semi-monthly sets of print materials on diet and exercise from the public domain, such as the American Cancer Society.

Group two – Mothers and daughters in this group will receive an initial personalized workbook and then semi-monthly newsletters on diet and exercise. They also will receive logs to track their diet and exercise habits. These materials will be delivered independently to mothers and daughters.

Group three – Participants in this group will work together in mother-daughter teams. Like the participants in Group two, they will receive a personalized workbook and semi-monthly newsletters about diet and exercise, as well as logs to track diet and exercise. They also are asked to routinely communicate with each other about their progress.

All participants will receive a pedometer and an iPod at different points in the trial.


Potential participants must live in the United States, Puerto Rico or Guam.

Mothers in the study must have been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last two years. Mothers and daughters also must have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or above.

BMI is a measure of body weight in relation to height. BMI can be calculated through the National Institutes of Health Web site.

Minimum age requirements for participation are:

  • 50 years old or older (mothers)
  • 21 years old or older (daughters)


The DAMES study also was preceded by another diet and exercise clinical trial led by Demark-Wahnefried named "Fresh Start." Results of the trial were presented at the 2006 annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The study, which targeted breast and prostate cancer patients, helped patients significantly improve their diet and exercise programs, Demark-Wahnefried says. “Fresh Start was highly successful, and we hope to experience the same success with DAMES.”

For more information or to enroll in the DAMES study, call Demark-Wahnefried at 1-866-566-4108.

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center