How can we accelerate the timeline for cancer rehabilitation research?

The Race for Discovery in Cancer Rehabilitation


Cancer patients benefit from rehabilitation to improve function (ability) and quality of life. However, current rehabilitation strategies for cancer patients are primarily rooted in general rehabilitation or neurorehabilitation principles. This traditional approach presents a challenge because cancer patients experience some unique symptoms that differ from those experienced by the general rehabilitation population. One such condition is cancer-associated cachexia — muscle loss despite adequate nutrition. Cachexia affects half of all cancer patients and results in a progressive decline that does not respond well to therapy. It is clear that cancer rehabilitation requires a different approach, but researchers and clinicians have been uncertain about the best way to tackle this problem. As a result, research in cancer rehabilitation lags behind other areas of medical research. To catch up, we must accelerate scientific exploration in this area.

Ishan Roy, MD, PhD, is at the vanguard of such efforts. He focuses on the connection between cancer and the whole body. His research shows that cachexia is the “switch” that prevents cancer therapies from working well. In his lab, Dr. Roy developed a novel animal model for cachexia that imitates the changes in muscle function, volume and structure experienced by humans with this condition.

His team uses this model to rapidly test individual therapies to identify ideal treatment approaches. Their insights are leading to greater understanding of the science behind cancer-related weight loss and greater recovery for cancer patients.

Meet the Researcher: Ishan Roy, MD, PhD


Ishan Roy, MD, PhD, is an attending physician and research scientist in the field of cancer rehabilitation and muscle-wasting disorders. He received his MD and PhD from the Medical College of Wisconsin and then completed the five-year Physician-Scientist Training Program (Research Residency Track) in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Clinically, Dr. Roy sees cancer patients with rehabilitation needs, including both patients with active disease and those in survivorship. Dr. Roy’s research focuses on understanding the physiologic mechanisms that cause functional decline, including cachexia. His laboratory’s goal is to develop new therapies for rehabilitation in this patient population.

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