Patients with high cancer-specific stress when initiating treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) may benefit from a psychological intervention, according to research published in the Annals of Behavioural Medicine.1

The impact of cancer-specific stress on psychological and physical functioning among patients with CLL was not previously well-understood. For this study, researchers evaluated whether cancer-specific stress at treatment initiation would predict for psychological and physical functioning among patients with relapsed or refractory disease who were enrolled in a phase 2 clinical trial.

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One hundred and fifty-two patients were enrolled; 71% were male, 97% were white, and the mean age was 64.1 years. The median number of prior therapies was 3. Patients were asked to complete self-report measures at baseline and 1, 2, and 5 months thereafter. Psychological function outcomes included cognitive-affective depressive symptoms, negative mood, and mental health quality of life; physical function outcomes included fatigue, sleep problems, and physical health quality of life.

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Of enrolled patients, 95% completed the 1-month assessment, 93% completed the 2-month assessment, and 86% completed the 5-month assessment. Higher cancer-specific stress at baseline was associated with worse psychological and physical functioning at baseline, though these patients also had faster improvement over the subsequent 5 months. Poorer 5-month psychological functioning at 5 months was, however, associated with high cancer-specific stress at baseline.

The authors concluded that these “findings suggest that integration of psychological intervention for patients who have high cancer-specific stress at baseline might be appropriate for this population. Future studies should examine whether targeting patients with high cancer-specific stress at treatment initiation for psychosocial intervention are conferred any benefits to participation.”


  1. Goyal NG, Maddocks KJ, Johnson AJ, Byrd JC, Westbrook TD, Andersen BL. Cancer-specific stress and trajectories of psychological and physical functioning in patients with relapsed/refractory chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Ann Behav Med. 2018 Feb 9. doi: 10.1093/abm/kax004 [Epub ahead of print]