Summer Update 2013. It’s been busy…

Hi everyone. Well, lest you think we’ve been sitting idle enjoying the weather this summer, let me prove you wrong! Despite the flooding that has displaced us from our offices at the Holy Cross Centre (seemingly indefinitely), we’ve been working on some exciting initiatives that will hopefully prove fruitful in the coming months.  We’ve also had some big publications come out that I’m really excited about. Today I will highlight one of those.

First off, our Integrative Oncology team has expanded and we’ve submitted two letters of intent for funding: one to the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Transformative Programs competition, and another to Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions Collaborative Research and innovations Opportunities for an Integrative Oncology Team grant. This may all sound like a lot of gobbledygook to the non-researchers out there, but basically it means big chances to fund our program – the vision we have put forth includes these components:

1) Education programs for both patients and health care staff on complementary therapies (CT) such as natural health products, mind-body therapies and energy therapies. What works and what is promising?

2) Provision of one-on-one consultations for patients with trained integrative oncology staff at the TBCC for treatment planning and decision-making around CTs, as well as ongoing case management to make sure the CTs are well integrated with conventional therapies like surgery, chemo and radiation therapy.

3) Provision of even more evidence-based CTs at the TBCC. We already provide meditation, yoga, healing arts, exercise and support groups. With more support we will be adding things like acupuncture, massage, tai chi and naturopathic consultations.

4) Establishment of  an IO clinical trials unit, where we will test the efficacy of promising natural health products for improving patient outcomes.

Additionally, we’re so happy that the primary results of a big study we’ve been working on for over five years comparing the efficacy of two group programs for helping breast cancer survivors is out.

In the largest study of its kind, we tested the effect of two group interventions for treating distressed breast cancer survivors: Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR), which is an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga, and Supportive Expressive Group Therapy (SET), which emphasizes emotional expression and mutual support. These two treatments were compared to usual care supplemented with a one-day stress management seminar.

Both interventions were effective in decreasing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, compared to usual care, but MBCR showed significantly more benefit for improving overall quality of life, decreasing symptoms of stress, improving mood and enhancing social support. Women in the mindfulness group reported significant and meaningful improvements in overall physical, emotional, social and psychological functioning; less anger, anxiety and depressive symptoms, more vigour and less fatigue than the women in the more conventional support groups and usual care. They had fewer physical symptoms of stress such as racing heart and sweaty palms, less muscle tension, moodiness and irritability.

This study is the first randomized trial to compare a mindfulness-based intervention to another effective treatment for distress in cancer survivors. The results are consistent with earlier research showing the benefits of mindfulness-based group programs for cancer patients, and underscore the notion that these types of supportive care programs should be accessible to distressed cancer survivors as part of their routine care.

The full text of the publication can be downloaded from my website: To download, go to the Publications tab, browse around and find what you want, then when you click on “view” you will be prompted to enter the following:
username: publications
password: carlson
You only have to enter this once then can download all you like!

Until next time, enjoy the rest of your summer!!