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Researchers Seek 100 Breast Cancer Survivors for Study on Tai Chi and Insomnia
Posted Date: 1/9/2007
Dr. Michael IrwinResearchers at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center are seeking 100 breast cancer survivors to volunteer for a study that will evaluate Tai Chi as compared to lifestyle skills training to help fight insomnia, a disabling treatment complication in some women.

The five-year study, funded by the National Cancer Institute, will compare two groups of survivors, one doing twice-weekly, hour-long Tai Chi classes for 16 weeks, the other learning lifestyle skills that may impact sleep patterns. Researchers hope to recruit the 100 volunteers over about four years, said Dr. Michael Irwin, principal investigator for the study.

"Difficulty sleeping is common in breast cancer survivors," said Irwin, a professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences. "This impacts quality of life. These women can't concentrate, they have no energy, they feel depressed. Not getting adequate sleep can make a person cranky and irritable, and it can impact on their social relationships."

The study will use a Western variation of Tai Chi, a gentle, slow moving form of the exercise that employs 20 movements as well as meditation. Previous studies at UCLA have shown that Tai Chi helps relieve pain in those with rheumatoid arthritis, boosts the immune systems of people suffering from shingles and helps fight insomnia in older adults, Irwin said. Lifestyle skills training, the other method tested in the study, is routinely used to help people with insomnia.

Breast cancer survivors are experiencing insomnia if it takes longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep three times or more a week, if they wake up in the night and can't go back to sleep or if they wake up very early. Causes of insomnia may include stress and anxiety, menopausal symptoms or a constantly aroused sympathetic nervous system.

Volunteers in the control group will attend a two-hour lifestyle skills training session once a week for 16 weeks to learn how to change sleep behaviors. The sessions will cover such topics as the role of daytime stress in perpetuating insomnia, how medications can alter sleep patterns and the extent that good sleep practices, such as establishing a regular sleep schedule, can improve sleep.

Study volunteers must be post-menopausal and be at least one year out of treatment. For more information, or to volunteer for the study, call (310) 825-8788.

UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center comprises more than 240 researchers and clinicians engaged in disease research, prevention, detection, control, treatment and education. One of the nation's largest comprehensive cancer centers, the Jonsson center is dedicated to promoting research and translating basic science into leading-edge clinical studies. In July 2006, the Jonsson Cancer Center was named the best cancer center in California by U.S. News & World Report, a ranking it has held for seven consecutive years.

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