The Loras College Cancer Research in Exercise Science Laboratory (CARES Lab) will unveil its newly renovated facility in Keane Hall at a grand opening ceremony on May 7. The event will be held for select guests to stay in line with CDC safety guidelines.
The renovation project updated and expanded a 2,550 square foot space in Keane Hall. This location was chosen because of its ability to provide a safe and private facility where cancer patients can receive clinical exercise programming and testing as part of their routine cancer care.
“Cancer survivors face many challenges specific to their cancer diagnosis and its associated treatment,” said Keith Thraen-Borowski, Ph.D., associate professor of kinesiology & biology. “Physical activity has been shown to mediate these challenges and improve a number of health outcomes in this population. Unfortunately, very few cancer patients are participating in physical activity or have access to safe, evidence-based clinical exercise programming, and most interventions attempting to increase physical activity in these individuals are typically conducted at major academic institutions and/or NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers. We set out to change that.”
The new space was made possible through a $330,000 grant award from a charitable trust deeply committed to health, education, and humanitarian causes. Notably, the funding associated with this grant will allow for the vetting of a cancer survivorship programming model for potential use in public health interventions in community settings across the Midwest and beyond. In addition, this project will provide a unique undergraduate research experience for students of the College, enhancing student learning while training the next generation of allied health professionals and clinical researchers.
The work on the new space was completed in early 2020. However, the area was closed down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An ongoing clinical trial that was launched with Medical Associates Oncology, in conjunction with MercyOne, was suspended at that time due to the increased risk of COVID-19 transmission related to exercising in an enclosed space with potentially immunocompromised cancer patients. The lab is officially reopening to work with cancer patients again on May 10.
To ensure that the space is safe for both patients and care providers, the following steps have been taken:
*Ventilation: Windows will be open at all times during exercise sessions to maximize ventilation. Further, the new CARESLab HVAC system consists of two units and is only servicing those spaces, meaning that the entire HVAC system is just for the CARESLab, and there is no air return from anywhere else in the building. The two units run through an ERV (energy recovery ventilator), ensuring the maximum air changes, and have been upgraded with hospital-grade MERV 14 filters. Finally, a CO2 monitor will be utilized to assess current ventilation/air quality to ensure these efforts are working as intended.
*PPE/Masking: Masks will be required of all those in the CARES Lab space. All patients and individuals working in the CARES Lab will be provided additional PPE as needed.
*Vaccinations: All CARES Lab staff are fully vaccinated. Due to vaccine distribution being open to all adults, it is entirely likely that the majority of patients entering the CARESLab will also have been vaccinated, maximizing safety for themselves and the staff.
*Social Distancing: The exercise equipment in the space has been set up to be no less than 10 feet apart and positioned to take the best advantage of open windows. The CARES Lab will be operating at a limited capacity to ensure social distancing guidelines are met.
“While it was heartbreaking to both suspend our trial and not utilize this new space once it was ready, we knew it was the right decision to hold off out of the utmost concern for our participants and our staff. Now that we are finally at a point where we feel it is safe to open our doors and do this work again, we are so excited to once again be able to deliver this service to individuals with cancer. Ultimately, the goal of the CARES Lab is to provide the cancer-care team with a safe, effective, and feasible evidence-based service which they can use to simply and quickly refer patients, allowing physical activity and clinical exercise to be embedded into routine cancer care here in our community,” Thraen-Borowski stated. “This new space gets us one step closer to making that objective a real possibility.”