Psychoneuroimmunology-Based Stress Management during Adjuvant Chemotherapy for Early Breast Cancer

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013:2013:372908. doi: 10.1155/2013/372908. Epub 2013 May 14.


Objective. In a randomized trial of women with early stage breast cancer undergoing adjuvant chemotherapy, two stress management interventions, tai chi training and spiritual growth groups, were compared to a usual care control group, to evaluate psychosocial functioning, quality of life (QOL), and biological markers thought to reflect cancer- and treatment-specific mechanisms. Method. The sample consisted of 145 women aged 27-75 years; 75% were Caucasian and 25% African American. A total of 109 participants completed the study, yielding a 75% retention rate. Grounded in a psychoneuroimmunology framework, the overarching hypothesis was that both interventions would reduce perceived stress, enhance QOL and psychosocial functioning, normalize levels of stress-related neuroendocrine mediators, and attenuate immunosuppression. Results. While interesting patterns were seen across the sample and over time, the interventions had no appreciable effects when delivered during the period of chemotherapy. Conclusions. Findings highlight the complex nature of biobehavioral interventions in relation to treatment trajectories and potential outcomes. Psychosocial interventions like these may lack sufficient power to overcome the psychosocial or physiological stress experienced during the chemotherapy treatment period. It may be that interventions requiring less activity and/or group attendance would have enhanced therapeutic effects, and more active interventions need to be tested prior to and following recovery from chemotherapy.