Case School of Medicine




Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer

The TREC initiative is a 5-year scientific research effort aimed at reducing cancer linked with obesity, poor diet, and low levels of physical activity. This $54 million initiative, which began in the fall of 2005, is funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The National Cancer Institute funds four research centers and one coordinating center as part of the Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) initiative. They include:

National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences
    Project Officer: Linda Nebeling, Ph.D., M.P.H., R.D., F.A.D.A
TREC Research Centers
  • Case Western Reserve University Comprehensive Cancer Center
    Principal Investigator: Nathan A. Berger, M.D.
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
    Principal Investigator: Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D.
  • University of Minnesota Cancer Center
    Principal Investigator: Robert Jeffery, Ph.D.
  • University of Southern California Cancer Center
    Principal Investigator: Michael Goran, Ph.D.
  • Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
    Principal Investigator: Mark Thornquist, Ph.D.

The TREC centers foster collaboration among transdisciplinary teams of scientists with the goal of accelerating progress toward reducing cancer incidence, morbidity, and mortality associated with obesity, low levels of physical activity, and poor diet. They also provide training opportunities for new and established scientists who can carry out integrative research on energetics and energy balance. The TREC initiative complements NCI’s other energy balance research endeavors and efforts of the NIH Obesity Task Force. Nathan A. Berger, M.D., principal investigator of CASE- TREC, states that obesity is increasing at epidemic levels in the United States and the risk of developing cancer increases with obesity. New studies suggest that weight gain at all stages of life may increase the association between obesity and cancer.

The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., will focus on prevention of new or recurrent breast cancer and colon cancer with a particular focus on physical activity.  The University of Minnesota will focus on population studies on the causes and effective prevention strategies for obesity in youth and families; and the University of Southern California will explore the physiologic, metabolic, genetic, behavioral and environmental influences on obesity and cancer risk in minority children.

The overall goals of the Case Center for Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer are defined organizationally and scientifically.  Organizationally, we seek 1) to establish a productive, durable program for transdisciplinary research on energetics and cancer at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, 2) to provide pilot project support and training opportunities for new and established scientists who can conduct integrative research on energetics, energy balance and their consequences relative to cancer across the continuum from cancer causation and prevention through survival, and 3) to establish collaborative relations with investigators throughout our university and at other TREC Centers and universities to maximally and synergistically utilize resources to significantly impact problems associated with obesity and cancer.

Scientifically, we conduct a spectrum of mechanism-based laboratory, clinical, and population-based studies to identify targets for prevention and control of obesity and interruption of the linkage between obesity and cancer.  The scientific aims are defined by three programs and a series of pilot projects which are highly interactive and are supported by three TREC core facilities and by the 17 Comprehensive Cancer Center core facilities.  Project 1 seeks to determine the intestinal tumor-inducing effect of molecular signaling pathways associated with high-fat diet versus obesity in unique strains of mice with chromosomal substitutions rendering them susceptible or resistant to the obesigenic effects of high-fat diets.  Project 2 is examining candidate gene variance and haplotype, associated biomarkers, and insulin-resistance syndrome related serum markers to understand how insulin-resistance syndrome, related genes and dietary factors work in concert in the etiology of human colon neoplasia.  Project 3 is investigating determinants of obesity and metabolic dysfunction during the critical life-transition period of adolescence.  This project capitalizes on a unique population cohort followed as part of the Cleveland Children’s Sleep and Health Study and is studying sleep phenotype and sleep disturbances as novel and important determinants of obesity and its relation to metabolic dysfunction.