Biomarkers in breast cancer survivors: The search for biological, physical, psychosocial, and behavioral predictors

Awardee: Maude Lambert

Graduate Program: PhD

Institution: University of Ottawa

Supervisor(s): Jennifer Brunet

ARCC Program Area(s): Survivorship; Health Systems, Services, and Policy

Competition: 2018

Project Summary:

Breast cancer (BC) is the most common cancer diagnosed in Canadian women. With continued advances in detection and treatments along with the aging and growth of the population, there is an ever-increasing number of BC survivors in Canada who are experiencing long-term physiological sequelae due to the cancer experience. Investigating how biomarker patterns differ from women with and without an experience of BC and extending this area of research to understand the extent which other behavioural and biopsychosocial (BPS) variables are affected by BC is important for several reasons, but most notably because these physiological post-treatment outcomes are related to several health outcomes such as survival and quality of life (QOL). To this end, the overall purpose of this research program is to examine the secretion patterns of four key biomarkers (i.e., cortisol, salivary alpha-amylase, secretory immunoglobulin A, and C-reactive protein) in BC survivors and generate novel knowledge on their behavioural and BPS predictors and outcomes. Three inter-related studies will be conducted. Study 1 aims to describe secretion profiles of biomarkers in BC survivors and to compare these to women with no history of BC. Studies 2 seeks to determine whether a modifiable life factor such as physical activity can be used to counterbalance the negative physiological effects of a cancer experience in BC survivors. Finally, considering that the associations between behavioral and BPS factors and biomarkers secretion patterns may be reciprocal, Study 3 will use a longitudinal design to assess the bi-directional associations between the physiological sequelae of BC (as indexed by biomarker profiles) and multiple behavioural and BPS variables during the first five years post-treatment.

Collectively, these studies will allow us to expand current knowledge on the late and long-term physiological impact of BC and its treatments and to potentially identify factors that can be targeted in post-treatment interventions to treat and ameliorate health outcomes and overall QOL in the 26 thousand of women diagnosed with BC yearly. This research, which utilizes quasi-experimental and longitudinal study designs, is the first to compare the profiles of several biomarkers in tandem in the same BC survivors. With the number of cancer survivors climbing each year, efforts to better understand, monitor, and mitigate the physiological consequences of a cancer experience is critical and cancer survivorship needs to be a priority in research in order to keep up with the needs of this ever-growing population.

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