A Randomized Controlled Trial of the Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR[BC]) on Levels of Inflammatory Biomarkers Among Recovering Breast Cancer Survivors

Biol Res Nurs. 2017 Jul;19(4):456-464. doi: 10.1177/1099800417707268. Epub 2017 May 1.


Purpose: The purpose of this substudy of a large randomized controlled trial was to evaluate the efficacy of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (Breast Cancer) (MBSR[BC]) program compared to usual care (UC) in normalizing blood levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines among breast cancer survivors (BCS).

Method: A total of 322 BCS were randomized to either a 6-week MBSR(BC) program or a UC. At baseline and 6 and 12 weeks, 10 ml of venous blood and demographic and clinical data were collected and/or updated. Plasma cytokines (interleukin [IL]-1β, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor [TNF] α, transforming growth factor [TGF] β1, soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor [sTNFR] 1) were assayed. Linear mixed models were used to assess cytokine levels across three time points (baseline and 6 and 12 weeks) by group (MBSR[BC] vs. UC).

Results: Of the six measured cytokines, three were nondetectable at rates greater than 50% (IL-10, IL-1β, TGF-β1) and, because of overall low prevalence, were not analyzed further. For the remaining cytokines (TNFα, IL-6, sTNFR1), results showed that TNFα and IL-6 increased during the follow-up period (between 6 and 12 weeks) rather than during the MBSR(BC) training period (between baseline and 6 weeks), while sTNFR1 levels did not change significantly across the 12-week period.

Conclusions: Study results suggest that MBSR(BC) affects cytokine levels in BCS, mainly with increases in TNFα and IL-6. The data further suggest that B-cell modulation may be a part of immune recovery during breast cancer management and that increases in TNFα and IL-6 may be markers for MBSR(BC)-related recovery.

Keywords: MBSR(BC); Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction; biomarkers; breast cancer; cytokines.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology*
  • Cytokines / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Middle Aged
  • Mindfulness*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*


  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines