The MATCH Study: Mindfulness And Tai chi for Cancer Health. This innovative clinical trial conducted by the University of Calgary/Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is now recruiting cancer survivors! As a participant you get to choose which treatment approach you want, or let us assign you to a group if you are equally interested in both. We will measure program effects on psychological, physical and biological outcomes including quality of life, mood, stress, balance, blood pressure, heart rate, immune function and more! Visit www.thematchstudy.ca for more details.
by Dr. Linda E. Carlson, Study Principal Investigator
What makes the MATCH study unique?
Many people during and after cancer treatment try mind-body therapies like meditation, yoga and tai chi or qigong to help cope with symptoms and return to a healthy lifestyle. Quite a bit of research supports the usefulness of both mindfulness-meditation and tai chi/qigong programs for helping people reduce anxiety and stress, and improve their quality of life, but the two have never been directly compared. This study will be the largest ever conducted on these two therapies, aiming to answer the question: Which therapy works best for whom, and for treating which symptoms? The study is being offered both in Calgary and Toronto over the next three years.
Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) is a group program that teaches people about the benefits of mindfulness for coping with cancer and its aftermath, and trains participants in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga through direct practice in class and at home. Participants attend a 2-hour weekly class plus a 6-hour weekend retreat over the course of 9 weeks.
With my oncologist’s clearance, I also took up yoga and Tai chi. The gentle movements have helped me regain strength and flexibility, and the breathing exercises have helped me to relax and to sleep better at night. ~Jennifer Bassett, Cancer Survivor
Tai chi and Qigong (TCQ) are ancient mind-body approaches that are designed to help harness energy and balance the mind, body and spirit using slow precise physical forms, postures and breathing exercises. The TCQ classes occur once per week for 1.5 hours over 11 weeks.
Despite studies showing each of these programs are better than usual care for helping people cope with cancer and symptoms like fatigue and sleep difficulties, as well as improve balance and strength, we don’t yet know which type of program is best for treating which symptoms, and for which type of cancer survivors.
We hope to recruit 600 people in total which will allow powerful comparisons between the groups, and help us move towards more “personalized medicine” where it may be possible to recommend specific treatments based on the type or stage of cancer, individual predispositions and personality, and the specific symptoms a survivor may be struggling with.
Unique features of the MATCH study include:
- Participants with a preference get to choose which group they want to attend (either Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery or Taichi/Qigoing). This is unlike most studies of this kind where participants are randomly assigned to one or the other without a say in the matter.
- If people are equally interested in both groups, we will randomly assign you to one group or the other. This replicates the methods used in a traditional randomized controlled study.
- Psychological outcome measures for everyone include fatigue, sleep, stress, mood and overall quality of life
- Physical outcome measures include balance, agility and strength
- Biological outcomes include:
- Stress hormones measured from saliva
- Immune functioning assessed from blood samples
- Telomere length (a measure of cell aging) from blood samples
- Gene expression from blood samples
- Blood pressure and heart rate assessed in the lab
All these measures are taken before starting either program, after completing the programs over a 3-month period, and then again 6 months later. The saliva and blood samples are just small tubes collected either at home or at the lab. The whole assessment session takes about 2 hours each time.
To be eligible people have to have been diagnosed with most any kind of non-metastatic cancer and be completed primary treatments like surgery, radiation or chemotherapy. Ongoing hormonal treatments are okay.
For more information visit our website: www.thematchstudy.ca
I took a mindfulness course to help me transition back to work; I had no idea how beneficial it was going to be to me. Initially, I didn’t think anything was really happening except that I was meditating once a day every day, but then I began to notice subtle changes in the way I reacted or didn’t react to situations. I found that I really liked my meditation time and that it gave me a sense of calm during a time of utter chaos. It allowed me to come to accept things as they are. As a “type A” personality, I always thought I could control everything until I realized that I couldn’t control anything. That was terrifying until MBSR taught me that what I could control was how I chose to react to a situation. Those skills have stayed with me in tough times. ~Anne Marie Cerato, Cancer Survivor
Dr. Linda Carlson holds the Enbridge Research Chair in Psychosocial Oncology, is an Alberta Innovates-Health Solutions Health Scholar, Full Professor in Psychosocial Oncology in the Department of Oncology, Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Psychology. She is the Director of Research and works as a Clinical Psychologist at the Department of Psychosocial Resources at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre.
Dr. Carlson’s research in Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery has been published in many high-impact journals and book chapters, and she published a patient manual in 2010 with Michael Speca entitled: Mindfulness-Based Cancer Recovery: A step-by-step MBSR approach to help you cope with treatment and reclaim your life, in addition to a professional training manual in 2009 with Shauna Shapiro entitled The Art and Science of Mindfulness: Integrating mindfulness into psychology and the helping professions. She has published over 150 research papers and book chapters in the area of psycho-oncology, been awarded several national and international reserach awards, holds several millions of dollars in grant funding and is regularly invited to present her work at international conferences.