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Relationship between social support, quality of life, and Th2 cytokines in a biobehavioral cancer survivorship trial.

  • Author(s): Osann, Kathryn;
  • Wilford, Justin;
  • Wenzel, Lari;
  • Hsieh, Susie;
  • Tucker, Jo A;
  • Wahi, Aditi;
  • Monk, Bradley J;
  • Nelson, Edward L
  • et al.


Benefits of social support (SS) during cancer survivorship are complex. This study examines change in SS over time in cervical cancer (CXCA) survivors who have completed definitive treatment and how changing SS impacts quality of life (QOL) and T-helper type 2 (Th2) cytokines.


We conducted a randomized trial in 204 CXCA survivors to test if psychosocial telephone counseling (PTC) could improve QOL compared to usual care (UC). Although PTC did not target SS, data were collected at baseline, 4 and 9 months post-enrollment using the Medical Outcomes Survey Social Support scale. Biospecimens were collected to investigate associations with patient-reported outcomes. Data were analyzed using multivariate linear models and stepwise regression.


Participants' mean age was 43. PTC participants experienced increasing SS compared to UC at 4 months (PTC-UC = 5.1; p = 0.055) and 9 months (PTC-UC = 6.0; p = 0.046). Higher baseline SS and increasing SS were independently associated with improved QOL at 4 and 9 months after adjusting for patient characteristics (p < 0.05). Differences between study arms were not statistically significant. Improvements in QOL at 4 months were observed with increases in emotional/informational and tangible SS. Increasing SS predicted significant longitudinal decreases in IL-4 and IL-13 at 4 months that were larger in the PTC arm (interactions p = 0.041 and p = 0.057, respectively).


Improved SS was significantly associated with improved QOL independent of patient characteristics and study arm. Decreasing Th2 cytokines with increasing SS and QOL are consistent with a biobehavioral paradigm in which modulation of the chronic stress response is associated with shifts in immune stance.

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