Breast Cancer, Sleep Disturbance, and Depression to be Studied at UCLA

By: Sean Patterson - November 6, 2012

UCLA researchers announced this week that they have received a $5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to fund a five-year study into the risk profiles of breast cancer survivors likely to suffer depression. The 300 volunteers needed for the study will be chosen by looking through the electronic patient records of Kaiser Permanente to find women who have been treated for breast cancer and don’t have a history of depression.

The researchers believe the treatment of breast cancer can cause inflammation, leading to sleep disturbance and depression. Through the study they hope to discover whether sub-sets of breast cancer survivors are more at risk for depression. The volunteers will have their DNA examined for potential biomarkers and genetic anomalies. If a risk profile is identified, a follow-up study will be launched to evaluate prevention measures.

“Depression in breast cancer survivors is a huge problem,” said Dr. Michael Irwin, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. “It often goes undiagnosed and is under treated. If we can identify those breast cancer survivors at elevated risk for sleep disturbance and, therefore, depression, we can diagnose and treat it earlier with better outcomes. Additionally, if we can identify those at greatest risk, efforts can be implemented early to prevent the occurrence of depression in the first place. Because depression is so prevalent and difficult to treat in breast cancer survivors, prevention of depression will dramatically improve quality of their life.”

Irwin stated that the prevalence of depression in breast cancer survivors is three to five times greater than for the general population. His stated goal is to prevent the “cascade of events” that leads to depression, specifically inflammation and sleep disturbance.

“There are no published prospective data that have examined the independent contribution of sleep disturbance on depression occurrence in breast cancer survivors,” said Irwin. “Increasing evidence implicates that sleep disturbance is activating inflammatory signaling, which serves as a biological mechanism that contributes to depression. We hope to define the genomic and biologic processes that results in this depression.”

Sean Patterson

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Sean PattersonSean is a staff writer for WebProNews. Follow Sean on Google+: +Sean Patterson and Twitter: @St_Patt

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  • Rayleene

    Hi my name is rayleene I am a 23yro single mom and was diagnosed with breast cancer at 21 one month shy from my 22nd brithday end of this month I will b 1 year remission and I’ve been struggling with depression and sleep disorder. If I can be contacted to volunteer that would be awesome anything I can do to help others I’m open to. Thank you.

  • Deb

    Everyone tells that I have handled the diagnosis of cancer well, to be truthful I am very depressed, – I hate to be on my own. I have always been a poor sleeper, but now it is much worse, the exhaustion makes everything else harder to cope with.
    Wish I lived closer to UCLA would be very interested in taking part in this study.

  • Deborah Walden

    I was always laughing and enjoying life untill I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now I am depressed, have crazy thoughts, insane hot flashes, and my sleeping routine is totally messed up. I am awake night after night, then I sleep for days on end because I am exhausted. I’m available for your study if you think I can help find some relief for others like me. Thank you so much.