Dr. Leslie Clark to test the impact of interactive technology on cancer survivors’ physical activity

Motivational messages and activity trackers may inspire survivors to increase activity and achieve better health as they recover from cancer treatment, said Dr. Clark. She will conduct the study with the support of a 2017 UNC Lineberger Development Award.

Dr. Leslie Clark, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at UNC OB-GYN, has received a $50,000 UNC Lineberger Development Award to study how connecting with cancer survivors through wearable technology and targeted messaging might inspire their increased overall health.

The grant will fund her innovative project, “The MOVES trial: MOtiVating Endometrial Survivors with Activity Trackers and Tailored Feedback.” Dr. Vickie Bae-Jump of the same division and Dr. Wanda Nicholson from the Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology are mentors for the project. Dr. Clark has also received mentorship from Dr. Derek Hales and Dr. Carmina Valle from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, who both have specific expertise in interventions to impact healthy behavioral change.

With a demonstrated link between obesity and endometrial cancer, Dr. Clark will investigate how the engagement of patients via targeted messaging and activity trackers such as FitBit will impact survivors of endometrial cancer who could improve their health by losing weight.

“We know obesity is a factor in the development of this cancer. Unfortunately many of these patients are not counseled to lose weight or are unable to lose weight without help,” said Dr. Clark, who is also a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “We have an opportunity to help them engage in a teachable moment by encouraging them to increase their activity and improve their overall health once they have completed their initial cancer care.”

Dr. Clark said weight loss is not the only goal, as increasing activity alone can improve cardiovascular health and prevent other diseases such as diabetes. The team will provide patients with a FitBit and use the device to track their activity. Half of the participants will be randomized to receive motivating messages to help increase their steps or that motivate them to wear their device. They will also collect samples of blood and urine to test blood sugar, insulin levels, cholesterol and other markers of health to track the patient’s physiologic response to increasing activity.

“We’ll be recruiting patients who are recent survivors of endometrial cancer who are also overweight and obese. Patients who have been released from cancer treatment in the last three-to-six months are in a great place to make changes that can help keep them healthy.”

Dr. Clark completed her fellowship in gynecologic oncology at UNC OB-GYN in June 2017 and joined the faculty as an assistant professor immediately after. Earlier this year, Dr. Clark was awarded the Nina Donnelley and The Dickens Fund of the Donnelley Foundation Young Investigator Award in honor of Laurel Rice, M.D., as well as a 2017 Pope Clinical Fellow for excellence in cancer research and clinical practice.

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