Background: Yoga is a popular mind-body therapy that has demonstrated beneficial effects on psychological, behavioral, and functional outcomes. However, few studies have investigated effects on inflammatory processes. This study tested the hypothesis that an Iyengar yoga intervention specifically designed for fatigued breast cancer survivors would lead to decreases in inflammation-related gene expression and circulating markers of proinflammatory cytokine activity.
Methods: Breast cancer survivors with persistent cancer-related fatigue were randomized to a 12-week Iyengar yoga intervention (n=16) or a 12-week health education control condition (n=15). Blood samples were collected at baseline, post-intervention, and at a 3-month follow-up for genome-wide transcriptional profiling and bioinformatic analyses. Plasma inflammatory markers and salivary cortisol were also assessed.
Results: In promoter-based bioinformatics analyses, the yoga group showed reduced activity of the pro-inflammatory transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), increased activity of the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid receptor, and reduced activity of cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB) family transcription factors relative to controls (all ps<.05). There was also a significant intervention effect on the soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor type II (sTNF-RII), a marker of TNF activity; plasma levels of sTNF-RII remained stable in the yoga group, whereas levels of this marker increased in the health education group (p=.028). A similar, non-significant trend was observed for the interleukin 1 receptor antagonist (p=.16). No significant changes in C reactive protein (CRP), interleukin 6 (IL-6), or diurnal cortisol measures were observed.
Conclusions: A 12-week restorative Iyengar yoga intervention reduced inflammation-related gene expression in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue. These findings suggest that a targeted yoga program may have beneficial effects on inflammatory activity in this patient population, with potential relevance for behavioral and physical health.
Keywords: Cancer; Cortisol; Fatigue; Gene expression; Inflammation; Yoga.
Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.