Each year over 1.6 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in the United States. Nutrition and energy balance form important cornerstones of cancer prevention because they are linked to the etiology of many human cancers. Nutrition is a complex exposure to study due to our complex food supply, inherent challenges in assessing self-reported diet, limitations in existing food and nutrient databases and the multiple economic, cultural, social and behavioral predictors of food intake. These complexities require a comprehensive research program that includes methodological work to improve upon dietary self-report, novel methods to characterize food intake, innovative intervention strategies and applications to large cohorts with well-characterized and adjudicated clinical outcomes. These multiple research strategies comprise the work of the Neuhouser Lab. The research program includes intervention trials conducted in the Fred Hutch Prevention Center and Human Nutrition Laboratory as well as community-based interventions in the Seattle community and beyond. In addition, the lab uses data and biorepository specimens from large existing cohorts including the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) and the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET) to test etiologic questions related to nutrition, biomarkers, energy balance and cancer risk. The Neuhouser Lab also actively participates in large, national collaborations such as NCI’s Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer (TREC); these collaborations bridge basic sciences, clinical research and population sciences.

Our Leadership Model

Dr. Neuhouser works closely with a wide array of clinicians and scientists, with collaborations spanning the array of science from bench-to-bedside-to communities. She and her team epitomize the belief that the whole is more than the sum of its parts and that everyone’s ideas are valued.

Current Projects

Fresh Study

The Fresh Study

In the Frequency of Eating and Satiety Hormones Study (FRESH) we are conducting a randomized cross-over trial of 3 eating occasions/day to 6 eating occasions per day in relation to biomarkers of satiety, inflammation and insulin resistance – biomarkers that are susceptibility markers for cancer risk. We are also measuring sleep patterns and self-reported satiety in both treatment arms. Learn more about the Fresh Study

Photo of a healthy array of vegetables

Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment Study

The Nutrition and Physical Activity Assessment Study (NPAAS) focuses on the use of objective biomarkers of dietary intake and physical activity and their use in regression calibration models to understand better the relationship between diet, physical activity and chronic disease risk in postmenopausal women. Our work in this area has been expansive and supports that there is systematic measurement error of self-reported diet and physical activity. The biomarker calibrated measures that correct for this systematic error are providing robust associations of risk for many cancers, cardiovascular disease and diabetes that are typically not apparent with uncorrected self-report.

Fruits and vegetables

Diet and Genetic Risk for Prostate Cancer

This study investigates comprehensive measures of diet and dietary supplements with a focus on antioxidants measured by both self-reported and blood based biomarkers of intake in relation to prostate cancer risk among 12,000 participants in the Carotene and Retinol Efficacy Trial (CARET). We also measured polymorphisms in oxidative stress regulatory genes and whether any diet gene interactions modify associations of diet and nutritional biomarkers with prostate cancer risk.  

Fruits and vegetables

Vitamin D and Prostate Cancer: Biomarkers and Genetic Variation

The objective of this nested case-control study is to elucidate mechanisms by which Vitamin D influences prostate cancer risk among 18,000 participants in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial (PCPT). Strong evidence from experimental studies indicates that vitamin D is involved in key carcinogenesis-related processes, including gene transcription, cellular differentiation, T-cell mediated immunity, cell cycle control, proliferation and apoptosis. We assayed baseline blood samples for serum concentrations of 25(OH)D and polymorphisms in a set of vitamin D related metabolizing genes. Prostate cancer outcomes were ascertained by biopsy in both cases and non-cases as part of the primary PCPT protocol.


Health, Eating, Activity, and Lifestyle (HEAL) Study

The HEAL Study is a multicenter, multiethnic cohort of female breast cancer survivors residing in three SEER registry catchment areas – Seattle-Puget Sound (WA), Los Angeles County (CA) and North Central New Mexico. Women completed a baseline interview within 12 months of diagnosis and an additional interview that also included a blood draw, anthropometry and diet and dietary supplement questionnaires 24 months later. Outcomes were obtained from participant medical records review and vital status records.

Collaborative Projects

Prostate Active Lifestyle Study

Prostate Active Lifestyle Study

PI: Dr. Jonathan Wright

This study, led by Dr. Jonathan Wright, associate professor in the Department of Urology, medical director of the University of Washington medical Center Urology Clinic and affiliate researcher with Dr. Neuhouser at Fred Hutch, investigates how controlled interventions in diet and exercise – resulting in weight loss – affect the short- and long-term outcomes for men with low-grade prostate cancer on active surveillance.

PALS study participants travel to Fred Hutch, where the study is based, for regular meetings with a nutritionist and an exercise physiologist. A combined diet and exercise program that is based on the Diabetes Prevention Program may affect markers (or “biomarkers”) of prostate cancer progression. Gathering this information may help Drs. Wright, Neuhouser and other researchers understand how obesity affects prostate cancer progression and may help lead to a program that can reduce the risk of prostate cancer progression and improve long-term survival and quality of life. Learn more about the PALS Study

2017 TREC training cohort with Melinda Irwin and faculty
2017 TREC training cohort with Melinda Irwin and faculty

TREC Training Course

PI: Melinda Irwin

A growing number of studies have examined observational associations and interventional effects of diet, physical activity and obesity on various biological, psychosocial, and behavioral outcomes associated with cancer. These studies have focused on healthy populations, high risk populations and those diagnosed with cancer. However, even with the growing number of scholarly publications in this field, many of the studies suffer methodological limitations, and this research to date has not led to sufficient implementation of weight management and/or physical activity interventions/programs in the clinic or community. Recognition of the complex, multidimensional relationship between energy balance and cancer has motivated the development of new transdisciplinary training models, as the training of scientists and clinicians in energy balance and cancer research is critical.

To meet this need, in collaboration with Dr. Melinda Irwin (PI, Yale University) and other researchers, we developed the Transdisciplinary Research in Energetics and Cancer Research Education Program (TREC Training Workshop) and provide an annual, in person 5-day transdisciplinary research in energy balance and cancer training course early career investigators (i.e., junior faculty and postdocs). Cohorts will span a diverse array of academic backgrounds (i.e., basic, clinical and population cancer research) and in collaboration with the wider community of TREC-inspired scientists will enhance the ability to produce innovative and impactful transdisciplinary research in energetics and cancer and clinical care. Learn more about the TREC Training Course