Effects of Psychosocial Therapies for Cancer Patients: Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)-Based Analysis

Cancer patients often have psychological problems too, such as stress and depression. It is critical to address the psychosocial demands of cancer patients. On the basis of the scientific studies of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), methods in psychosocial therapies have been applied for cancer patients for the management of acute and chronic stress (Subnis et al., 2014). The biomarkers indicating neurological, endocrine, and immunological changes can be used to evaluate the effects of such novel PNI-based psychosocial therapies in cancer patients.

In a meta-analysis of the effects of psychosocial therapies in cancer patients, more than twenty cancer-specific studies were reviewed (Subnis et al., 2014). The analysis showed that most of the therapies involved breast cancer patients at an early-stage. Two important types of therapies were applied in these studies, one involved cognitive-behavioral therapies, the other involved complementary medical therapies.

The therapies lasted over different timeframes in the studies, ranging from more than one hour in a week to more than 20 hours over a period of 18 weeks. Using PNI-based biomarkers, the meta-analysis found that cognitive-behavioral therapies may have the most positive effects with influences on the immune functions such as cytokines (Subnis et al., 2014).

Because psychoneuroimmunology (PNI)-based psychosocial therapies are still relatively new for patients with cancer and other diseases, more studies are still needed with more patients involved. In addition, better methodologies are required to have a more accurate evaluation of the clinical effects of these emerging interventions, such as by using standardized procedures and measurements. For example, it would be necessary to examine the resource distribution, dose-response relationships, and most importantly, the effects on the PNI biomarkers.


Subnis UB, Starkweather AR, McCain NL, Brown RF. Psychosocial therapies for patients with cancer: a current review of interventions using psychoneuroimmunology-based outcome measures. Integr Cancer Ther. 2014 Mar;13(2):85-104. doi: 10.1177/1534735413503548.

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