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Harper, Megan

Research

Profile Megan HarperResearch Title: Mechanisms of Shortness of Breath in Postsurgical Patients with Lung Cancer

Research Location:  Kelowna, BC

Research Supervisor: Dr. Neil Eves

Research Description:

Shortness of breath is one of the most common and debilitating symptoms in patients with lung cancer. Many patients experience shortness of breath for several years after receiving surgery and these symptoms are often worse than those which they experienced prior to treatment. Shortness of breath negatively influences mental and physical health, which can lead to reductions in quality of life and a greater risk of mortality. However, the primary cause(s) of shortness of breath in non-small cell lung cancer patients are currently unknown.

Patients become more short of breath when they exert themselves physically. This is because of the increased demand on the respiratory (breathing), cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) and skeletal muscle systems. Patients with lung cancer who have had surgery to remove tumors in the lung(s) experience additional stress on the breathing muscles due to a reduction in lung tissue and total lung capacity, as well as de-conditioning of the skeletal muscles following recovery from surgery. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the breathing muscles are weakened following surgery and likely contribute to shortness of breath in patients with lung cancer.

Consequently, patients who become short of breath often stop exercising early or avoid exercising entirely, resulting in further de-conditioning and reductions in exercise capacity. This is important not only because exercise capacity predicts survival in patients with lung cancer, but is also associated with quality of life in this population. Exercise training programs have been shown to reduce shortness of breath and improve exercise capacity in patients with other chronic respiratory conditions. However, there is currently no formal exercise rehabilitation available for patients with lung cancer. The aim of my current work is to therefore understand the primary cause(s) of shortness of breath in patients with lung cancer, so that exercise training programs can be designed to overcome these limitations and to ultimately reduce shortness of breath and improve quality of life in this population. I plan to study the benefits of exercise training for patients with lung cancer as a PhD student with Dr. Neil Eves following completion of my MSc.

Home Town: Kelowna, BC

Country: Canada

Faculty: Faculty of Health and Social Development

Program: Master of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies

Why did you decide to pursue a graduate degree?

I first realized my desire to pursue research as a student in the Bachelor of Human Kinetics program during a directed study with Dr. Neil Eves in the integrative Clinical Cardiopulmonary Physiology Laboratory. I had the opportunity to gain considerable experience working with respiratory disease patients, supervising exercise training, and further developed many techniques associated with clinical exercise testing and the physiological monitoring of patients. These experiences helped to foster my interest in the pathophysiology and treatment of chronic respiratory disease and solidified my desire to pursue clinical research.

Why did you decide to study at UBC's Okanagan campus?

I grew up in the Okanagan and became interested in the Bachelor of Human Kinetics program here at UBC Okanagan. During my undergraduate degree, I developed a passion for clinical respiratory physiology and became interested in working with Dr. Neil Eves in his laboratory which focuses on the integrative aspects of pulmonary, cardiac and vascular physiology and how the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems can be conditioned to optimally improve health.

As a student in the Centre for Heart, Lung and Vascular Health, I have had the opportunity to be part of a network of researchers performing internationally, leading research into the causes, consequences, and treatment of cardiovascular, pulmonary, and cerebrovascular diseases. In addition, the integrative Clinical Cardiopulmonary Physiology Laboratory is a state-of-the-art facility which has all of the necessary equipment for measuring lung mechanics, pulmonary function, cardiac function, vascular function, and has expanded to include a training facility specifically for performing exercise training interventions for clinical populations.

What impact do you hope your research will have?

I hope that my current work will help us to better understand the cause(s) of shortness of breath in patients with lung cancer and to see the translation of this knowledge into therapeutic interventions for treating disease. Specifically, I hope to design exercise training programs to overcome these limitations and to ultimately reduce shortness of breath and improve quality of life in this population.

Exercise training programs have been shown to reduce shortness of breath and improve exercise capacity in patients with other chronic respiratory conditions. However, there is currently no formal exercise rehabilitation available for patients with lung cancer. My hope is that research conducted by myself and others will lead to formalized exercise rehabilitation for post surgical patients with lung cancer.

Awards

CIHR Graduate Scholarship

 

 

Last reviewed shim11/20/2015 2:42:42 PM