Summer 2015 update – We have not been idle!

Hello to all our supporters and thank you for stopping by! Another year has flown by since I’ve updated our blog, despite my best intentions to keep you all informed. It’s been a busy and productive year with ongoing and new programs being offered, new research published and underway, studies recently funded and lots of media attention to our work. Let me give you a quick overview:

1. Publications:

We published a paper in the journal Cancer showing that women who participated in psychosocial interventions telomeresincluding mindfulness meditation and supportive expressive group therapy maintained telomere length compared to women in a control condition. I wrote about this in a column in the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Leap magazine so check that out for the details. The media loved this study and we had over 300 news stories covering it last fall. Here’s one national example. It also showed up in Scientific American and in Europe and India.

Additionally, we published a study looking at the effects of animal assisted therapy for women with breast cancer undergoing counselling.  Women who had their counselling with a therapy dog present discuss how it facilitated the process of therapy and coping with their cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Two papers related to complementary therapy use and natural health products came out this year as well. One documented the prevalence of CT usage and communication needs of both patients and health care providers, while the other looked at cancer centre policies and guidelines across Canada and the USA regarding the use of antioxidant foods and supplements during cancer treatments and survivorship.

Excitingly, I was involved in a group from the Society of Integrative Oncology who reviewed all integrative oncology therapies for women with breast cancer and created evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, which were published in a special issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. These guidelines overview therapies like mediation, yoga, massage, acupuncture and natural health products for treating a range of symptoms in women with breast cancer.

2. Presentations:

I was invited to Australia in November to present our work on mindfulness-based interventions for chronic illness at the Mind and Its Potential conference in Sydney. It was a wonderful conference and I had the chance to present a TED-like talk to an engaged audience. The talk is available on YouTube. I also participated in a fun panel discussion about tips for living a healthy and inspired life, which you can also view here.

I attended the American Psycho-Oncology/International Psycho-Oncology Societies’ World Congress in Washington DC in August of this year, and presented a workshop on Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery along with presentations on Screening for Distress for cancer centres across the USA who are currently implementing programs. I had fun tweeting a lot of the study outcomes as I attended talks, which can be viewed on my twitter feed.

3. Programs:

We continue to offer patient education seminars on Complementary Therapies on a monthly basis at the TBCC – class schedules are available online. I was on sabbatical for 6 months this year so our capable postdoctoral fellow Dr. Greg Levin has been offering the seminars and doing a great job!

Dr. Levin has also been running a study this year on health care provider education programs for staff at the TBCC who have patient contact. They are completing 3 online modules with training on complementary therapies: what they are, how to talk to patients and direct them to evidence-based sources of information. So far we have recruited over 100 participants and will continue the study into fall. Educational modules from the Complementary Medicine Education and Outcomes (CAMEO) program are being used, and also are freely available for patients and health care providers alike.

On the support group front, we are conducting studies on two new innovative support groups for people with gastrointestinal cancers (mainly colon cancer); one is for men and one for women. We are investigating how these programs meet their specific needs and effects on psychosocial outcomes, since there is very little research on support groups in these populations.

4.New Projects:

We are thrilled that the Lotte & John Hecht Memorial Foundation has recently funded a clinical trial comparing Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery to Taichi/Qigong in cancer survivors. This 5-year project will be conducted in Calgary and Toronto and allow us to assess the comparative effects of these two mind-body therapies on both psychological and biological outcomes in up to 400 patients. Recruitment will begin in 2016 so stay tuned!

That is probably enough for now – as you can see we have been busy and continue to work towards more integrative oncology programming for cancer patients and survivors in Alberta and beyond. If you have comments or suggestions we would love to hear from you. All the best as we transition into another new beginning this fall!

Linda E. Carlson, Director of Integrative Oncology, TBCC