Alexandre Chan, professor and chair of clinical pharmacy practice at the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, received $200,000 in grant funding from the California Breast Cancer Research 2022 Innovation, Developmental, and Exploratory Award (IDEA).
IDEA supports speculative, exploratory, high-risk/high-reward projects with a primary focus on breast cancer. Funding from the grant will support Chan’s study to minimize symptoms of cancer-related cognitive impairment (decline in cognitive functions such as perception, attention, language, thinking, learning and memory, action planning, understanding, reasoning and problem solving) as well as related symptoms which drastically impact cancer survivors’ quality of life.
“Currently, there is no effective treatment in place to assist with these cognitive symptoms that result from cancer and/or chemotherapy treatment,” says Chan. “Many breast cancer survivors have trouble going back to their normal life. Our research aims to provide a potential therapeutic option to manage their lingering symptoms in cancer survivors who have completed cancer treatment.”
The study will analyze the efficacy of electroacupuncture in mitigating chemotherapy side effects, quality of life, and common symptom clusters such as fatigue, weakness, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
“We plan to take a translational approach where we will study the effects of electroacupuncture on the levels of certain molecules in the body that have been associated with cancer-related cognitive impairment,” says Chan. “We will also assess scans of the brain for select patients to evaluate the changes in brain matter structures when given the electroacupuncture treatment.”
This research not only provides a minimally invasive approach to alleviating cancer-related cognitive impairment but it also provides new insights into the efficacy of integrative medicine in treating cancer-related symptoms.
“If proven effective, our research could pave the way for an entirely new approach to medicine that utilizes mind and body practices,” says Chan.
The research team is working closely with community partner Breast Cancer Angels, a local non-profit that provides direct financial and emotional assistance to breast cancer patients (and their families) as they undergo breast cancer treatment in the South Bay, Orange County, and San Diego areas.
“Breast Cancer Angels is both honored and excited to be a part of the initiative,” says Debra Stroman, executive director of Breast Cancer Angels. “As a community-based organization that helps thousands of community members stay afloat while battling breast cancer every year, we are the connection that can bridge the gap between important resources like UCI and the people they want to help.”
“By collaborating with our community partners, we are able to provide breast cancer survivors the opportunity to be involved in the study,” says Chan. “We will receive direct guidance and feedback on how our research can be helpful for the larger breast cancer population. We will also partner with them to disseminate the results of our study.”
The study is a partnership with the UCI School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, the UCI Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, and the UCI Health Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute.
“We are grateful for this funding which will lay the foundation for incorporating an integrative approach into cancer supportive care,” says Chan. “We foresee this method of treatment being expanded upon from the clinical trial setting to improve survivorship care in cancer patients.”