Dr. Lengacher earns NIH grant to help breast cancer survivors cope with residual symptoms

Breast cancer survivors frequently feel pain, fatigue, sleep dysfunction, anxiety, depression and fear of recurrence after they complete their treatments.

Cecile Lengacher, RN, PhD, professor in the USF College of Nursing, has been awarded a five-year, R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute to evaluate how well a clinical stress reduction program helps these patients experience fewer of these symptoms.

The $2.56-million grant begins Feb. 1, 2009, and ends in 2013. Co-investigators are Dr. Kevin Kip, Dr. Thomas Klein, Dr. Paul Jacobsen, Dr. Versie Johnson Mallard, Dr. Michael Schell, and Dr. Ray Widen.

This study will assist breast cancer survivors who are in transition from coming off treatment to being a survivor. Called “MBSR Symptom Cluster Trial for Breast Cancer Survivors,” the project will evaluate the effectiveness of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Breast Cancer (BR) program among breast cancer survivors. The primary goals are to determine how effective the program is for improving patient symptoms and outcomes after treatment, what aspects of the program are most effective, and which types of patients respond better to the program.

The study will follow 300 women with Stages 0, I, II, and III breast cancer who have undergone lumpectomy and/or mastectomy and are within two years of completing treatment with adjuvant radiation and/or chemotherapy. The two years corresponds to the key transition period when formal medical treatment has ended, yet residual symptoms remain. Patients, recruited from Moffitt Cancer Center and USF Health, will be randomly assigned to the MBSR (BC) program or a typical care regimen that is later offered in the program. Assessments at baseline, six weeks, and 12 weeks will include measures of psychological symptoms (depression, anxiety, perceived stress), physical symptoms (pain, fatigue, sleep dysfunction), quality of life, biological stress markers (pro-inflammatory immune cytokines, cellular adhesion molecules, lymphocyte subsets), and stress-related hormones (cortisol).

The MBSR program is a clinical program that provides systematic training to promote stress reduction by self-regulating arousal to stress. The program was modified for breast cancer survivors and has shown early success in helping reduce their symptoms.

Story by Sarah Worth, USF Health Communications