An assistant professor of Surgery and Neuroscience, Ian Kleckner, Ph.D., M.P.H., is fascinated by the mind-body connection and has been a competitive bodybuilder and CrossFit athlete for years. As a kid, growing up in Pittsford, he tended to overthink and had some anxiety, and exercise gave him a sense of control.
He moved away from the Rochester area for a decade, earning a doctorate in biophysics at The Ohio State University and for post-doc training at Northeastern University in Boston. Those experiences pushed him to consider how using body-based treatments might help people with cancer to calm brain circuits and negative emotions. He found kindred souls and excellent mentors in the Cancer Prevention and Control research program at Wilmot, where yoga and other exercise therapies have long been studied and proven to be safe and effective at reducing side effects for individuals going through cancer.
Kleckner carved out his own niche in this booming field, focusing on clinical studies to quell neuropathy, a common side effect from taxane-based chemotherapy. With no established treatments for neuropathy, Kleckner employs brain imaging to investigate how it occurs during cancer treatment and to test new exercise interventions.
He’s conducted several trials, received accolades, and plans to expand his studies into mindfulness and neurofeedback. Kleckner’s vision is clear for the not-too- distant future: He sees cancer patients who are treated with chemotherapy and also receiving an app to download with a personalized exercise prescription based on their own fitness level and drug treatment regimen. “I think we’re coming to it,” he says. “It’s so needed.”