Adriana Coletta, PhD, MS, RD
Cancer Population Scientist at Huntsman Cancer Institute
Assistant Professor of Health and Kinesiology at the University of Utah
"My 5 is for my grandfather, who had liver cancer. I really looked up to him and wished that I could have spent more time with him. He was kind and strong and he had a lot of integrity and was always honest. He told me to always do the right thing. And even though it can be hard, in the end you always win."
Adriana Coletta was gearing up for a career in sports dietetics until she completed her dietetic internship. As part of a medical team, she fell in love with patient care but knew her passion was in exercise. She decided to dedicate her life to integrating the principles of nutrition and exercise to those she felt could really benefit and who might be unaware or not focused on those two elements at that time—cancer patients.
"When you’re doing these interventions, it’s a lifestyle change," Coletta says. "So you need to have some competency with behavioral intervention. We know that exercise isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It’s all about meeting that person where they are and helping them move on from there to achieve their goals."
Coletta credits "an incredible team of colleagues and collaborators" who help to enable her success. Her 5 For The Fight Fellowship will support a project with a team that includes clinicians, researchers, and staff working to develop an algorithm that aligns with the clinical workflow and makes exercise a part of the survivorship care plan.
"So from the time of diagnosis, each patient would ideally get assessed for their physical function needs and physical conditioning needs and deficits," she says, "then be triaged from there to the programs they need to make sure they’re staying physically fit and able to tolerate and make it through all of their treatments and beyond."
She believes the power is in wellness and that her 5 For The Fight Fellowship at Huntsman Cancer Institute will help lead the way.
"I truly believe that we can be the model program for cancer centers nationwide and worldwide," she says. "I’m hoping that we can get exercise services eventually reimbursed by insurance companies and just be part of the care plan, like everything else. I’m so excited for this opportunity because it allows us to take that first step in doing this work and really transforming patient care."
Coletta is inspired by patients who participate in the research that is critical to improving the standard of cancer care. "I’m motivated by helping them get better and make it through their cancer treatment. I call every single patient who enrolls in my trial. Usually I’ll call them to see if they have any questions and then I end up talking to them just about life. And one of the things they ask me is why I am doing this. It’s just really all about helping make a change and transforming care to help patients get better and get through their treatments well."
"I was on the rowing team at Penn State. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I got interested in nutrition through the sports dietitian at Penn State, Dr. Kris Clark."
Advice for Young Scientists
"Volunteer and spend time in many different types of cancer research labs so you can really get the full spectrum and see what you like, whether it’s the transdisciplinary or translational approach. Spend time in an animal lab, spend time working with cell lines, spend time in clinic and doing human research and really get the full array of what cancer research has to offer. Only then can you make a decision on where you think you might fit the best."