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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.

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.

Inflammation can worsen many of the hallmark characteristics of cancer and has been associated with poor breast cancer outcomes. The team recently showed that breast cancer survivors who show greater activation in reward-related brain regions  have lower levels of inflammation. This year, the team will extend these findings and define the impact of these brain-immune system interactions on tumor biology. 

Women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer will undergo imaging of their brain to examine brain activity in response to different stimuli.  Tumor biopsy and blood will be analyzed for immune markers, particularly the expression of genes linked to inflammation.  With data from the brain, the immune system and the tumor, the researchers hope to characterize the psychological/neural profiles of women with more “risky” tumors, laying the groundwork for targeted interventions. 

These approaches will provide new information on a possible strategy to target the tumor microenvironment to improve breast cancer outcomes.


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


Donor Recognition

The Clinique Award

Area(s) of Focus