News Briefs

NCCAM Awards First Director's Fellowships for CAM Research

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health, has selected the first two fellows for the NCCAM Director's Fellowship in Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Research.

The primary goal of the fellowship is to prepare new fellows for careers as independent CAM investigators. The fellowship provides full research support for two years of clinical, translational, and/or laboratory research. The fellows were selected from a highly competitive international pool of applicants.

The fellows will join the NIH Intramural Research Program and conduct research on CAM topics in the laboratories of senior scientists of other Institutes and Centers across the NIH. Under the mentor's guidance, the fellow will serve as a "bridge" between the mentor's laboratory, where the work will be performed, and NCCAM.

The first two NCCAM Director's fellows are:

  • Patrick P. McCue, who received his PhD in molecular and cellular biology from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 2004. He is currently studying the molecular effect of space radiation on the biology of yeast at NASA Ames Research Center in California. James Phang, MD, of the National Cancer Institute, will mentor McCue while he studies the effects of chemical compounds from botanical extracts on mechanisms of cancer cell death.
  • Marni N. Silverman, who received her PhD in neuroscience from Emory University in Atlanta in 2005. She will be working with Esther Sternberg, MD, of the National Institute of Mental Health. Silverman will study glucocorticoid resistance, which contributes to individual variability in responses to stress. Her research will help shed light on the influence of CAM therapies on the responses of the brain and body to stress.

The NCCAM Director's fellowship is funded in part by the Prince of Wales Foundation.

Art Therapy Can Reduce Pain and Anxiety in Cancer Patients, Study Says

A study published in the January issue of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that art therapy can reduce a broad spectrum of symptoms related to pain and anxiety in cancer patients. In the study done at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, cancer patients reported significant reductions in eight of nine symptoms measured by the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS) after spending an hour working on art projects of their choice.

Fifty patients from the inpatient oncology unit at Northwestern Memorial were enrolled in the study over a four-month period. The ESAS is a numeric scale allowing patients to assess their symptoms of pain, tiredness, nausea, depression, anxiety, drowsiness, lack of appetite, well-being, and shortness of breath. Eight of these nine symptoms improved; nausea was the only symptom that did not change as a result of the art therapy session.

Each art therapy session was individualized, and patients were offered a choice of subject matter and media. When participants could not use their hands or were not comfortable using the art materials, the art therapist would do the art-making under the direction of the subject, or they could look at and discuss photographic images that were assembled into a book.

Sessions ranged from light, entertaining distraction to investigating deep psychological issues, says Nancy Nainis, MA, ATR, lead author of the study and an art therapist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. "We were especially surprised to find the reduction in ‘tiredness,'" Nainis says. "Several subjects made anecdotal comments that the art therapy had energized them. This is the first study to document a reduction in tiredness as a result of art therapy."

This study was supported by a grant from the Service League of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.