Traci L. Parry, PhD

Trailblazing Women

ASIP Highlights Session:
I Am An ASIP Member and This Is My Science

  • Experimental Biology 2019 – Orlando FL

Traci L. Parry, PhD

Assistant Professor
Department of Kinesiology
University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro NC

My lab investigates the ability of exercise to prevent and rehabilitate chronic diseases. Of particular interest is cancer and its comorbidity, cachexia. The burden of cancer is great and at this point everyone has personally been touched, in some form, by this burden. Currently, nearly 14 million people are living with cancer with over 1.5 million new cases expected to be diagnosed this year. Thanks to improvements in cancer detection and treatment, the cancer death rate is dropping. Still, cancer therapies impose permanent damage which can drastically decrease quality of life. Additionally, up to 80% of cancer survivors will become cachectic during their fight against cancer which can directly interfere with cancer treatment causing survival rates to plummet. And as if the physical and emotional toll of cancer wasn’t enough, the fight against cancer is incredibly costly: each year Americans collectively pay over $180 billion just to survive. Luckily, 20+ years of research has demonstrated that exercise helps reduce the cost of cancer burden – physically, emotionally, and financially. However, we still do not know why. To answer this question most effectively, we must use multiple approaches: clinical research focusing on patient care and pre-clinical (translational) research focusing on underlying mechanisms of benefits of exercise in cancer survivors. Using clinically relevant measures like echocardiograms (heart function), our translational (animal) research has shown that exercise can protect the musculature (heart and skeletal muscle) from the negative consequences of cancer and cancer-mediated cachexia. Arguably even more exciting is exercise’s ability to stunt or slow tumor growth. Therefore, exercise holds much multimodal potential to help heal and rehabilitate cancer survivors. Using pre-clinical models to unravel the underlying mechanisms of the benefits of exercise for cancer survivors directly informs clinical practice. Thus, patients get the very best and most personalized exercise invention available for their specific cancer stage and type. The ultimate goal of exercise oncology is to improve quality of life while giving survivors the absolute chance at beating cancer, because exercise IS medicine.

During my postdoc, I became a member of ASIP. From the very first Experimental Biology meeting that I attended as an ASIP member, I knew it was a very special Society. ASIP fully invests in its members – especially trainees. There is so much support and so many opportunities available to trainees and junior faculty to help them attend and present at national meetings, which are crucial to helping develop their national reputation and to get the visibility they need in order to launch their independent careers. The endless networking opportunities and helpful sage senior faculty members help ensure trainees are connected with multiple potential mentors to help them carve out their place in pathology. I will forever be a supporter of ASIP and look forward to giving back and supporting others as I have been supported in my journey to an independent academic.