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Research Thesis Topic

Effect of Psychosocial Wellbeing on Chromosomal Stability and Stress Biomarkers in Breast Cancer Survivors.

Topic ID

Thesis Topic/Title
Effect of Psychosocial Wellbeing on Chromosomal Stability and Stress Biomarkers in Breast Cancer Survivors.


One in two Australian men and one in three Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85 and this is estimated to equate to 130,466 cases in 2016 alone. Sixty-seven percent of those diagnosed and treated will survive at least five years following their diagnosis. Unfortunately the majority will be left with life-long health and/or psychosocial side effects that diminish both quality of life and overall survival. The proposed project will be undertaken in collaboration with Blush Cancer Care Inc, St Andrew’s and St Vincent’s hospitals (Toowoomba) and researchers in the USQ School of Psychology and Counselling and will determine the effect of a randomised controlled trial utilising Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) on psychosocial wellbeing, stress biomarkers and chromosomal stability.

Recent research efforts have established the factors that influence the psychosocial wellbeing of cancer survivors and these include treatment regimen, severity of disease, age, gender, marital and economic status, pre-existing mental illness and perceived social support to name a few. There have also been numerous psychological intervention studies that have reported improvements in quality of life and other psychosocial wellbeing parameters. ACT incorporates mindfulness and other psychological techniques and has shown promise in improving wellbeing in several chronic disease groups but has not been reported as an intervention in a breast cancer group setting.

Chromosomal stability in cells is maintained by the function of telomeres. Telomeres are repetitive sequences of DNA (TTAGGG) that cap both ends of mammalian chromosomes and are essential in preventing loss of critical DNA sequence (genes) by acting as a buffer which is consumed during DNA replication. As DNA polymerase is unable to reach the end of linear chromosomes, chromosomes are shortened after each round of DNA replication and eventually the cell will enter senescence or apoptosis. This is the process by which telomeres have been shown to shorten with age and the relative telomere length (RTL) of chromosomes in peripheral blood leucocytes (PBLs) has been utilised as a marker for ageing. Research has also reported an increase in the rate of RTL shortening associated with several age-related diseases, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and dementia, as well as an increased risk of mortality from these diseases. Chromosomal instability is also a driver of cancer development.

This project will involve the collection of blood and saliva specimens from participants in the ACT study before and after the intervention. DNA will be extracted from PBLs and buccal cells; RTL analysis performed on the DNA; and the protein/lipid/hormone analysis of several metabolic, immunological and neuroendocrine stress biomarkers (such as serum cholesterol, albumin and cortisol, IL-6, TNF- a, C- reactive protein, adrenaline, dopamine, dehydroepiandrosterone and salivary amylase) undertaken

Principal Supervisor

Associate Supervisors

Research Affiliations
  • Centre for Health Sciences Research

Field of Research
  • Biochemistry and Cell Biology
  • Medical Biochemistry and Metabolomics
  • Oncology and Carcinogenesis
  • Other Medical and Health Sciences

Application Open Date

Application Close Date

USQ Scholarship Applications

Pre-approved for Ethics

Admission Requirements

Please review the admission requirements for the academic program associated with this Thesis Topic

Ethics application in preparation

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