Population Sciences to Develop Survivorship Program and Advance Research

As associate director of population sciences at the Penn State Cancer Institute, Kathryn H. Schmitz, PhD, MPH, is creating a thriving survivorship program. This program dovetails with Dr. Schmitz’s interest in clinical care and research combining exercise training and nutritional counseling in a behavioral oncology clinic. As such, she plans to conduct several studies on the effects of exercise on chemotoxicity in cancer patients.

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, seated, and her team demonstrate the equipment available in the Exercise Medicine Unit.
Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, seated, and her team demonstrate the equipment available in the Exercise Medicine Unit.

“One of the most exciting things to me about the Penn State Cancer Institute is the environment of openness and excitement about combining changes in clinical care with research enterprises,” Dr. Schmitz states. In shaping her research strategy for Penn State Cancer Institute, Dr. Schmitz plans to draw on her prior experience studying the effects of exercise on women with elevated risk for breast cancer.1 She also transferred her Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) Center grant, an open IRB protocol, from the University of Pennsylvania to Penn State Cancer Institute. The TREC initiative is a scientific research program created by the National Cancer Institute in 2005 to reduce cancers associated with obesity, poor diet and low levels of physical activity.2

Dr. Schmitz’s TREC study explores the impact of exercise and weight control interventions on breast cancer survivors, as well as examining persistent adverse treatment effects through cost effectiveness analysis.3 Her team is currently recruiting for a pilot study on resistance training as a method to reduce dose-limiting toxicity in colon cancer patients.

Dr. Schmitz will lead a significant staff expansion to include ten post-doctoral, four faculty and three staff positions within population sciences at Penn State Cancer Institute. A hematologist/oncologist will serve as clinical lead for the survivorship clinic program. She also plans to introduce exercise into the chemotherapy suite, as well as an exercise physiologist with a master’s level education to ensure she and her colleagues understand the safety, feasibility and acceptance of exercising during chemotherapy. Dr. Schmitz summarizes, “I only succeed if my colleagues succeed. Our goal is to change cancer care by being collaborative and by building careers of junior investigators.”

Kathryn Schmitz, PhD, MPHKathryn H. Schmitz, PhD, MPH
Associate Director, Population Sciences
Penn State Cancer Institute
PHONE: 717-531-4387
E-MAIL: kschmitz@phs.psu.edu
PhD: Kinesiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.
MPH: Epidemiology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn.
MSEd: Exercise Science, Queens College, New York, N.Y.


  1. Schmitz KH, Williams NI, Kontos D, Kurzer MS, Schnall M, Domchek S, et al. Women in steady exercise research (WISER) sister study design and methods. Contemporary Clinical Trials. 2015; 41:17-30.
  2. https://www.trecscience.org/trec/bin/about/overview.aspx?j=21. Accessed August 17, 2016.
  3. https://www.trecscience.org/trec/bin/research/primary.aspx?j=21. Accessed August 17 2016.

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