TREC Overview

The Transdisciplinary Research on Energetics and Cancer (TREC) initiative is a major scientific research effort aimed at reducing cancer linked with obesity, poor diet, and low levels of physical activity.

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) established the TREC initiative in 2005 in response to growing public health concern with overweight and obesity in the United States and mounting evidence that obesity plays a role in the development of many types of cancer.

The relationships between obesity, energy balance, nutrition, physical activity, and cancer risk are highly complex. Finding answers to complex questions about obesity and cancer requires a transdisciplinary research approach where scientists from diverse fields come together to integrate knowledge across disciplines. The TREC initiative helps scientists conduct transdisciplinary research on obesity and cancer and also helps train new and established scientists to carry out this kind of integrated research. The TREC initiative complements NCI’s energy balance research endeavors and efforts of the NIH Obesity Task Force.

In 2005, NCI funded the first four TREC Research Centers and one Coordination Center. The centers included scientists from multiple disciplines and encompassed projects spanning the basic biology and genetics of behavioral, socio-cultural, and environmental influences on nutrition, physical activity, weight, energy balance, energetics, and cancer risk. The Coordination Center facilitated interactions across and between the Research Centers and the NCI. In the first five years of funding, fourteen research projects and several developmental pilot projects were supported and a transdisciplinary infrastructure to promote research collaborations in the area of energy balance and cancer was established. The first five years of funding for TREC ended in September 2010.

In 2011, NCI announced the four newly awarded TREC Research Centers and continuation of the Coordination Center. The overall purpose of the current TREC initiative is to foster transdisciplinary research in nutrition, physical activity, energy balance, and cancer. As in the first five years of funding, the current TREC initiative continues to emphasize collaboration across diverse disciplines such as behavior science, physiology and metabolism, sociology, communications, geography, psychology, kinesiology, nutrition, biostatistics, biochemistry, molecular biology, and other diverse disciplines.

The current TREC initiative expands into other research areas including cancer survivorship, childhood obesity, genomics, and environmental aspects of obesity that include use of tools such as geospatial analysis. The current program also includes additional emphasis on testing and integrating behavior change theories, challenges in survivor populations, systems analysis, using animal and human studies in diverse research designs, and expansion of the application of biological markers to inform behavioral-based research. Training new and established scientists to carry out transdisciplinary research continues to be a part of the current TREC initiative.

What is transdisciplinary research?
Transdisciplinary research is defined as research efforts conducted by investigators from different disciplines working jointly to create new conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and translational innovations that integrate and move beyond discipline-specific approaches to address a common problem.

What is energetics?
Energetics in the context of the TREC initiative is defined as the study of the flow and transformation of energy through living systems (i.e., bioenergetics).

What is energy balance?
The term energy balance refers to the integrated effects of diet, physical activity, and genetics on growth and body weight over an individual’s lifetime.