A recent partnership between Dana Farber and Fitbit is poised to find out if weight loss reduces the risk of breast cancer. The Harvard Medical School affiliated cancer center has launched the Breast Cancer Weight Loss (BWEL) study, which is supported by the National Cancer Institute and the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology. The study will enlist about 3,200 women with breast cancer who are overweight and obese to determine if losing weight reduces the risk of cancer recurrence.

To date, there is no definitive evidence to prove that weight loss will in fact have a positive impact on the disease, but Jennifer Ligibel, MD, an oncologist at the cancer center, says “The increased risk of cancer recurrence linked to excess body weight threatens to limit our progress in treating breast cancer and preventing women from dying from this disease….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.”

The BWEL study will randomize patients to receive either a health education program or an education program in addition to a two year weight loss regimen. Women in the experimental group will have access to a health coach to help them stay the course, receiving phone advice to help them increase their exercise and cut calories. They will be using the Fitbit Charge HR fitness tracker and the Aria Wi-Fi scale to collect study data. Both devices should help patients track their progress and remain motivated to meet their goals. Coaches will also receive the patients’ data to help them remain focused on their goals.

The BWEL study is now recruiting participants and can be accessed at ClinicalTrials.gov, a service of the National Institutes of Health. Patients are eligible to enroll in the randomized phase III trial if they have ductal breast carcinoma in situ or breast carcinoma.