M. D. Anderson announces collaboration with India's largest yoga research institution

04/28/05

HOUSTON - The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (Research Foundation), Bangalore, India, today announced a research collaboration to scientifically validate the age-old belief that mind-body interventions have a beneficial impact on the health of cancer patients.

The effort builds on a cooperative, cross-cultural relationship between researchers, representing a shared mission to increase integration of yoga-based therapies into cancer treatment regimens to enhance quality of life.

Representatives of both institutions met today at M. D. Anderson, advancing a framework for future academic and clinical collaborations that will involve research, physician education and training, and personnel exchanges. In their future research, they plan to utilize brain-imaging technology in an effort to pinpoint precisely where changes take place in the brain and to confirm previous research that showed certain brain regions were affected by meditation-based programs.

"Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana has an outstanding history of clinical and research-based discoveries related to the effects of yoga on both healthy people and those suffering from cancer," says Thomas Brown, M.D., vice president for Extramural Programs at M. D. Anderson. "By sharing our expertise in multidisciplinary cancer care and translational research, together we can advance scientific understanding of how the mind works in concert with the body to benefit cancer patients around the world."

Under the leadership of Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., director of the Integrative Medicine Program and associate professor in the Departments of Behavioral Science and Palliative Care & Rehabilitation Medicine at M. D. Anderson, researchers from both institutions are currently studying the effects of Indian-based yoga on breast cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments. They are exploring whether participating in a yoga program diminishes patients' fatigue and sleep disturbances, while improving overall quality of life, mental health, stress hormone levels, and aspects of immune function.

The randomized controlled trial is monitoring patients' physiological responses to yoga as determined from blood and saliva samples, lung function tests and goniometric (joint motion) measurements. A follow-up study that will be funded by the National Cancer Institute in July 2005 will measure the benefits of yoga on similar outcomes including more objective measures of sleep quality as measured by actigraphy (sleep restfulness) and in a sleep laboratory compared to patients participating in an educational support group that includes learning relaxation skills.

"The ancient Eastern practice of regulated breathing, gentle movement and meditation has long been ascribed anecdotal healing benefits," says H. R. Nagendra, Ph.D., vice chancellor of the Swami Vivekanada Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana. "We are pleased to partner with M. D. Anderson to answer key cancer questions and expand yoga research to produce more tangible results that the scientific community would view as solid medical evidence of the benefits of these types of mind-body interventions."

M. D. Anderson recognizes the growing body of research indicating that relaxation-based interventions can contribute to the well being of patients with cancer. Through the Integrative Medicine Program, clinical delivery offers complementary therapies through Place . . . of wellness that are used in concert with mainstream care to manage symptoms, relieve stress, and enhance quality of life. Integrative Medicine Program faculty also conduct research into the biological and behavioral effects of mind/body-based interventions; the anti-cancer potential of natural compounds; and acupuncture to treat common cancer treatment-related side effects. Research that Cohen published last year in the journal Cancer found that cancer patients participating in a Tibetan yoga program had lower levels of sleep disturbances than did the patients in the control group. Improving sleep quality in a cancer population may be particularly salient as sleep disturbances are common problems for patients with cancer.

"From meditation to music therapy, the key to the success of mind-body interventions is to ensure they are easily incorporated into conventional treatments. As a comprehensive cancer center, we don't just treat cancer, we treat people who have cancer," says Cohen. "It is incumbent upon us to explore the potential benefit of therapies that have some evidence of efficacy, even non-conventional therapies such as yoga."

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