APS Press Miami 2013

Sephton & Cash, Miami, FL 2013


Dedicated to the Integration of Biological, Psychological and Social Factors in Medicine

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Release from American Psychosomatic Society Meeting, Miami, Florida

Contacts: Sandra Sephton (sephton@louisville.edu) and Elizabeth Cash (e.lush@louisville.edu).



University of Louisville research shows breast cancer patients’ psychological response to diagnosis is linked with biomarkers of tumor growth


A research group based at the University of Louisville has shown that breast cancer patients’ psychological response to diagnosis is linked with biomarkers of tumor growth.  The group studied 57 women during the period between cancer diagnosis and surgery. Women who perceived their diagnosis as more stressful had disrupted circadian rhythms and higher blood levels of intercellular messengers related to aggressive tumor growth.

The study’s lead author, Elizabeth Cash, Ph.D., completed the work for a doctoral dissertation with her mentor, Sandra Sephton, Ph.D.. Collaborators included Yale University breast surgeon, Anees Chagpar, M.D., and Dr.’s Firdaus Dhabhar and David Spiegel at Stanford University. Dr. Cash today (DATE) presented findings at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychosomatic Society in Miami. The research builds on previous work showing circadian rhythms are most disrupted in patients who report stress and tend to cope by avoiding thoughts about cancer. Circadian rhythms can be measured both in terms of activity disruptions, as well as changes in specific hormones.

“Recognizing if circadian rhythms are disrupted, and introducing appropriate behavioral techniques to reduce stress just after diagnosis may prove beneficial for cancer patients,” Cash said. “One of our goals is to determine when it’s best to introduce those behavioral techniques.” Currently, the researchers are introducing mindfulness meditation and yoga to cancer patients during the days just after diagnosis. They anticipate mindfulness training will reduce stress and might improve circadian rhythms as well.  Cash says, “In future studies we also hope to understand if the growing tumor causes changes in the circadian rhythm, or vice versa.”