A Conceptual Model of Psychoneurological Symptom Cluster Variation in Women with Breast Cancer: Bringing Nursing Research to Personalized Medicine

Angela R Starkweather, Debra E Lyon, R K Elswick, Alison J Montpetit, Yvette Conley, Nancy L McCain
Current Pharmacogenomics and Personalized Medicine 2013, 11 (3): 224-230
Personalized medicine applies knowledge about the patient's individual characteristics in relation to health and intervention outcomes, including treatment response and adverse side-effects, to develop a tailored treatment plan. For women with breast cancer, personalized medicine has substantially improved the rate of survival, however, a high proportion of these women report multiple, co-occurring psychoneurological symptoms over the treatment trajectory that adversely affect their quality of life. In a subset of these women, co-occurring symptoms referred to as symptoms clusters, can persist long after treatment has ended. Over the past decade, research from the field of nursing and other health sciences has specifically examined the potential underlying mechanisms of the psychoneurological symptom cluster in women with breast cancer. Recent findings suggest that epigenetic and genomic factors contribute to inter-individual variability in the experience of psychoneurological symptoms during and after breast cancer treatment. While nursing research has been underrepresented in the field of personalized medicine, these studies represent a shared goal; that is, to improve patient outcomes by considering the individual's risk of short- and long-term adverse symptoms. The aim of this paper is to introduce a conceptual model of the individual variations that influence psychoneurological symptoms in women with breast cancer, including perceived stress, hypothalamic-pituitary adrenocortical axis dysfunction, inflammation, as well as epigenetic and genomic factors. The proposed concepts will help bring nursing research and personalized medicine together, in hopes that this hitherto neglected and understudied area of biomedical research convergence may ultimately lead to the development of more targeted clinical nursing strategies in breast cancer patients with psychoneurological symptoms.

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