Julienne E. Bower, PhD
Los Angeles, California
Professor, Psychology and Psychiatry/Biobehavioral Sciences
Research Scientist, Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology
David Geffen School of Medicine
Studying the biological pathways that link psychological stress and breast cancer outcomes, with a focus on the nervous and immune systems.
Patients who have been diagnosed and treated for breast cancer experience many forms of stress including psychological stress which can activate the immune response and cause inflammation—this negatively impacts breast cancer outcomes. Compelling evidence has emerged that indicates that the immune response and inflammation play a role in tumor initiation, progression, and metastatic spread. Drs. Bower and Cole are focusing on the role of the nervous and immune systems in translating stress from brain to body. These studies aim to define new “positive neurobiology” pathways that can be translated into clinical interventions. Through this work, they hope to establish new paradigms for blocking stress in order to promote both the quality and potentially the length of breast cancer survivorship.
Drs. Bower and Cole are conducting several interrelated lines of research into the association between psychosocial stressors and tumor characteristics in women with early-stage breast cancer. This includes examination of neural processes that link chronic stress and inflammatory processes relevant for tumor progression, as well as intervention studies to reduce stress and identify neuroendocrine pathways that impact tumor biology. Building on their recent findings that stress-induced changes in tumor biology can be blocked by stimulating the brain's reward system, they have established a laboratory model system to test how stimulation impacts breast cancer growth and metastasis. In addition, they have developed and optimized an online version of their mindfulness-based intervention for breast cancer survivors. They have demonstrated that this intervention is effective in reducing depression, enhancing well-being, and improving tumor-relevant immune processes in younger breast cancer survivors.
The team will continue to optimize the models they developed and determine whether manipulation of the reward system can impact the propensity towards metastasis and how neural and cellular mechanisms are involved. These studies will ultimately help to refine clinical interventions that have the potential to enhance reward-promoting effects in breast cancer patients. They will also expand the use of novel digital approaches for delivering behavioral interventions to more effectively reach a broad and diverse range of women with breast cancer. These lines of research are designed to establish new parameters for blocking the stress effect in the context of human breast cancer.
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.
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