Center on Stress and Health

Current Research Projects


Evaluation of Home-Based Self-Hypnosis Relaxation Training During VCUG in Children
Funded by:

Project Investigators: David Spiegel, M.D., Linda Shortliffe, M.D., Arianna Gerry, Ph.D., MPH
Pediatric care professionals and parents seek safe ways to make invasive medical procedures less stressful and traumatic for children. However, for unpleasant procedures that require child cooperation, this task becomes difficult.  The goal of the current study is to evaluate the efficacy of a home-based self-hypnosis relaxation training program for children undergoing voiding cystourethrography (VCUG) procedures. 

Acupuncture for Sleep Disruption Among Breast Cancer Survivors
Funded by: National Institutes of Health / National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Project Investigators: David Spiegel, M.D., Oxana Palesh, Ph.D., MPH
Sleep disruption is extremely prevalent among cancer patients. We are conducting a study to evaluate the efficacy of needle acupuncture for insomnia in breast cancer patients.

Management of Insomnia in Breast Cancer Patients
Funded by: National Institutes of Health / National Center for Complementary & Alternative Medicine

Project Investigators: David Spiegel, M.D., Oxana Palesh, Ph.D., MPH
Sleep disturbances, particularly insomnia, is far more prevalent in cancer patients than in the general population. This study will examine the effectiveness of current treatments, such as Brief Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia and Armodafinil (Nuvigil) in preventing and reducing insomnia and fatigue in breast cancer patients.

Efficacy of Group Intervention to Reduce Stress Symptoms
Funded by: National Institutes of Health

Project Investigator: Professor Cheryl Gore-Felton, Ph.D.
Stress has been associated with faster disease progression and worse overall psychological and physical outcomes among persons living with HIV or AIDS.

Sleep, Circadian, Hormonal Dysregulation, and Breast Cancer Survival
Funded by: National Institutes of Health

Project Investigator: Dr. David Spiegel, M.D.
We hope to learn about the relationships between psychological factors such as stress, quality of sleep, hormones, immunity, and cancer progression. 

For more information, please email Bita Nouriani.

Effects of Stress on Immune Function & Health
Funded by: National Institutes of Health

Principal Investigator: Professor Firdaus Dhabhar, Ph.D.
Although stress generally has a "bad" reputation, a short-term stress is response is nature's fundamental protective mechanism without which neither predator nor prey could survive. We are interested in identifying biological mechanisms that mediate and differentiate the recently appreciated immunoenhancing effects of short-term stress (eustress) from the well-known immunosuppressive effects of long-term stress (distress). We hope to use the knowledge gained from these studies to design bio-behavioral interventions that would harness endogenous mediators to manipulate immune function to confer maximum benefit for the patient. Our pre-clinical studies involve models of skin cell-mediated immunity, vaccines, and skin cancer.  Collaborative clinical research projects examine psychological, endocrine, and immune factors in the context of breast cancer (Spiegel et al, Stanford), knee surgery (Ickovics et al, Yale), caregiving stress (Epel et al, UCSF), depression (Wolkowitz et al, UCSF), meditation (Saron et al. UC Davis), and post-traumatic stress disorder (Altemus et al, Cornell).

For more information, please email Dr. Firdaus Dhabhar.

Expanding Rural Access: Distance Delivery of Support
Funded by a research grant from the University of California Breast Cancer Research Program

Research Principal Investigator: Cheryl Koopman, Ph.D., Stanford University
Community Principal Investigators: Mary Anne Kreshka, M.A., and Jim Perkins, Dr.P.H.
Northern Sierra Rural Health Network
Research has shown professionally-led support groups to be an effective form of psychosocial support for women with breast cancer, yielding psychological and health benefits. Women living with breast cancer in rural areas are likely to exhaust their usual sources of psychosocial support while facing challenges posed by breast cancer, but are unlikely to have access to professionally-led support groups. Previous research suggests that support can be provided at a distance via the modality of videoconferencing and paired with the content of the workbook-journal One In Eight. Using this modality, a small group of women can gather at their local clinic, a location that is familiar to them and relatively close geographically, while in real time they participate interactively by video with a professional group leader and other women at other sites.

Please visit our website regarding the Sierra-Stanford Partnership for a California Breast Cancer Research Project (CBCRP) Grant.

For more information, please email Dr. Cheryl Koopman.

Effect of Cortisol Function on Memory and Emotion Processing in Breast Cancer

Project Investigators:  David Spiegel, M.D. and Shelli Kesler, Ph.D.
Cortisol is a stress related hormone that tends to affect structures in the brain responsible for memory and emotion processing.  Women with breast cancer have been shown to have abnormal cortisol patterns, possibly related to chronic stress. 

For more information, please email Dr. Shelli Kesler.

Multi-Method Examination of Diverse Manifestations of Lyme Disease
Funded by Turn the Corner Foundation and the California Lyme Disease Association; IGeneX, Inc. is also providing support.

Principal Investigator:  Cheryl Koopman, Ph.D.
Consultants: Daniel Cameron, M.D., Raphael Stricker, M.D. and Christine Green, M.D.
Biostatistician: Tyson Holmes, Ph.D.
Project Director: Yvonne Lin, PA-C

The overall goals of our research project are twofold:  (1) To systematically characterize different patterns of manifestations of Lyme Disease: a) in a large sample of patients seen in clinical practice who have been diagnosed with Lyme Disease for who we have retrospective medical record data; and b) in an additional sample of 100 patients diagnosed with Lyme Disease who will be recruited for the prospective phase of this research; and (2) To evaluate and compare the sensitivity of various antibody and PCR assays against patients’ and comparison groups’ clinical diagnosis and symptom and illness patterns.  This research is inspired by considerations of the critical need for further research that recognizes the diverse manifestations of Lyme disease.

For more information, please email Dr. Cheryl Koopman.

Stress, the HPA and Health in Aging

Principal Investigator:  David Spiegel, M.D.

The goal of this Program Project grant is to determine how stress and depression affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) and the course of breast cancer, cardiovascular risk factors and cognitive impairment.

For more information, please email Dr. David Spiegel.



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