Skip Navigation

Dana-Farber study testing the impact of weight loss on breast cancer recurrence

  • Nestlé Health Science provides meal replacement to aid in weight loss

    Jennifer Ligibel, MD

    Researchers from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and partnering oncology practices across the United States and Canada are testing whether weight loss prevents women with breast cancer from a recurrence.

    Nestlé Health Science is donating OPTIFAST® nutritionally complete, low calorie meal replacements to help women in the newly launched Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) study realize their weight loss goals. Women in the trial will be followed to determine if weight loss should be part of the standard of treatment for breast cancer.

    Excess body weight has long been linked to an increased risk of developing breast cancer. Recent studies also show that women who are overweight or obese at the time when they are diagnosed with breast cancer have a higher risk of their breast cancer recurring, but there have been no studies examining the effect of weight loss upon the risk of breast cancer recurrence.

    The BWEL study, launched in August, 2016 and sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, will enroll nearly 3,200 overweight women with early stage breast cancer to test if losing weight helps to prevent their disease from recurring. The weight loss program will be delivered by health coaches, who will counsel participants over the telephone to help them reduce the number of calories they consume and increase exercise. Women participating in the trial will receive OPTIFAST 800® Shake Mixes from Nestlé Health Science as part of the weight loss program. Women enrolled in the study will be given the option of using the OPTIFAST® Shake Mixes as part of their dietary regimen, which will also include fruits, vegetables, lean meat and whole grains.

    “Studies have shown that individuals who use meal replacements as part of a weight loss plan lose more weight over time,” said Jennifer Ligibel, MD, a breast oncologist in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, and lead investigator of the BWEL trial. “Our study was designed to determine whether losing weight will reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence. We want to make sure that women participating in our study have all of the tools that they need in order to achieve weight loss. Many people attempting to lose weight really struggle to control the portions of food that they are eating. The OPTIFAST 800® Shake Mix meal replacements that Nestlé Health Science is generously donating in support of our study takes the guesswork out of determining what a serving is, allowing patients enrolled in the study to more tightly control their calories and lose more weight.”

    “We commend Dr. Ligibel and her colleagues for initiating the BWEL study, a lifestyle-intervention study that has the potential to impact thousands of women with breast cancer and their loved ones,” said Joao Siffert, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Nestlé Health Science. “Improving patient outcomes by including nutritional therapies as an integral part of health management informs everything we do, and we are honored to provide nutritional support to this landmark study.”

    Participants in the BWEL study will be randomized to either a two-year weight loss intervention plus a health education program designed to provide information about breast cancer topics, or to the health education program-alone control group. Patients in the weight loss group will work with a health coach over the phone to help them increase their exercise and reduce calories.

    “If this study shows that losing weight through increasing physical activity and reducing calories improves survival rates in breast cancer, this could lead to weight loss and physical activity becoming a standard part of the treatment for millions of breast cancer patients around the world,” said Ligibel.

Posted on October 11, 2016

  • Jennifer A. Ligibel, MD
  • Breast Cancer
  • Health & Wellness
  • Media Contacts

    For all inquiries, call 617-632-4090 and ask to speak to a member of the media team. Please direct emails to media@dfci.harvard.edu.

  • New Patient Appointments

    For adults: 877-442-3324
    For children: 888-733-4662

    Make Appointment Online