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Julienne E. Bower, PhD

Associate Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry/Biobehavioral Sciences
Research Scientist, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Los Angeles, California

Current Research

  • Seeking to understand the links between psychological stress and inflammation in breast cancer.
     
  • Analysis of tumor tissue, blood and brain activity is conducted to explore the impact of stress on tumor biology.
     
  • This work will provide novel insights into the potential effect of psychological stress on tumor growth, progression and recurrence.

A breast cancer diagnosis and treatment can cause many forms of stress on a patient. Psychological stress causes the release of chemicals that activate the immune system resulting in inflammation. Drs. Bower and Cole are conducting studies to understand how stress-induced inflammation influences breast cancer outcomes. 

Full Research Summary

Psychological stress activates the stress-response system in the brain, leading to release of hormones that influence the immune system and activate inflammation pathways. Drs. Bower and Cole are studying the biological pathways that link psychological stress and breast cancer outcomes, with a focus on the nervous and immune systems.

In the last year, they found that breast tumors from women experiencing high levels of social isolation showed increased activity of genes involved in inflammation and tumor metastasis. Inflammation can worsen many of the hallmark characteristics of cancer and has been associated with poor breast cancer outcomes. 

Over the next year they will conduct a more rigorous test of the association of social isolation and markers of stress in breast cancer patients participating in a clinical trial. Long-term follow-up of the patients will allow the researchers to determine whether stress-related tumor characteristics are associated with differences in clinical outcomes.  In addition, the trial included women with different subtypes of breast cancer, some of which may be more susceptible to any negative effects of stress.

The goal of the study is to see if the effect of stress related to social isolation is more relevant for particular types of breast tumors, and ultimately, to identify new targets for intervention to improve outcomes for women with breast cancer.

Biography

Julienne E. Bower, PhD is a nationally recognized expert on biobehavioral processes in breast cancer and their impact on health and well-being.  She has conducted pioneering work on neuroimmune interactions in breast cancer survivors, focusing on immune mechanisms for behavioral symptoms such as cancer-related fatigue.  Her research also examines the impact of psychosocial stress on behavioral and biological outcomes in cancer populations, including effects on inflammation and the tumor microenvironment.  Dr. Bower's current BCRF funded research, conducted in collaboration with BCRF co-grantee Steven Cole  is designed to identify the upstream neural processes that regulate inflammatory activity and how these can be modulated by mind-body interventions.  Dr. Bower is an Associate Professor in the UCLA Department of Psychology and the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and is also a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Norman Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology.

BCRF Investigator Since

2011

Area(s) of Focus

Co-Investigators