Healing Touch Breast Cancer Study

This study has been completed.
Department of Health and Human Services
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
Susan Lutgendorf, University of Iowa
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier:
First received: November 28, 2007
Last updated: June 16, 2012
Last verified: June 2012

The purpose of this research study is to understand effects of a complementary medicine therapy, Healing Touch on quality of life and immunity of patients who are receiving treatment for breast cancer. Healing Touch is a Holistic Therapy used as an adjunct to medical treatment. The goal of Healing Touch is to restore energy and vitality to the body as a patient is receiving treatment for cancer. Treatments include light touch on specific points on the body as well as around the body, to increase well-being and support the body's ability to heal. Healing Touch has been shown to increase relaxation and well-being and to decrease anxiety, pain, and treatment side effects in a variety of illnesses including cancer. Although Healing Touch is frequently used by cancer patients along with their medical treatments, very little is understood about the effects of this treatment on the immune system. The immune system is known to be important in the body's response to fighting cancer. We are studying Healing Touch to help us understand whether or not these treatments are effective in supporting the immune system during breast cancer treatment

Aim 1. To evaluate effects of a healing touch (HT) intervention on cellular immunity among early stage breast cancer patients during radiotherapy.

Aim 2. To evaluate effects of a Healing Touch (HT) intervention on cytokines associated with radiation damage and acute skin reactions in early stage breast cancer patients during radiotherapy.

Aim 3. To evaluate the effects of a Healing Touch intervention on fatigue and mood in early stage breast cancer patients during radiation treatment.

Condition Intervention
Breast Cancer
Behavioral: Healing Touch
Radiation: Standard Treatment

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Single Blind (Outcomes Assessor)
Primary Purpose: Supportive Care
Official Title: Quality of Life and Immunity During Breast Cancer Treatment

Resource links provided by NLM:

Further study details as provided by University of Iowa:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • CD4+ and CD4+5RA+ lymphocyte counts; NK cell activity; TGF-beta1; sTNFRII; IL-1beta; IL-1ra; fatigue (FSI); depression (CES-D); acute skin reactions [ Time Frame: six weeks ]

Secondary Outcome Measures:
  • WBC, distress (POMS), sleep quality, and days of interrupted treatment [ Time Frame: six weeks ]

Enrollment: 150
Study Start Date: June 2003
Study Completion Date: November 2009
Primary Completion Date: June 2008 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: 1
Healing Touch + Standard Treatment
Behavioral: Healing Touch
Healing Touch (HT) is a non-invasive therapeutic approach to healing which describes its mode of action as using touch to modulate the patient's energy system. The goal of HT is to restore harmony and balance in the patient's energy system to assist the person to self-heal.88 Healing Touch, as used here, refers to the techniques taught in Mentgen's standardized curriculum of Healing Touch offered through Healing Touch International and endorsed by the American Holistic Nurse's Association
Active Comparator: 2
Standard Treatment
Radiation: Standard Treatment
4-6 cycles of cytotoxic chemotherapy followed by 5040 cGy of external beam whole breast radiotherapy in 28 fractions usually followed by a boost of 1000-1600 cGy

Detailed Description:

Breast cancer patients use Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in greater proportions than any other group of cancer patients. The primary reason breast cancer patients cite for use of CAM is strengthening the immune system. Healing touch (HT) is a CAM treatment frequently used by cancer patients to reduce adverse side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and to enhance immunity. HT is classified by NIH as a "biofield" therapy as its effects are proposed to be secondary to manipulation of "energy fields" around the body of a patient. A recent meta-analysis has demonstrated relatively large effects of HT on well-being and on physiological parameters, even from brief treatments. However, to date, there are no data on the effects of HT on immune function among breast cancer patients during treatment. This is particularly important as several immune parameters show long-term suppression or alteration, particularly after combined adjuvant chemotherapy and radiation among breast cancer patients. Additionally, there are no data on the effects of HT on the common side effects of breast cancer treatment which can include profound fatigue and radiation-induced skin damage. Physiological mechanisms underlying possible effects of HT are also poorly understood. This study is designed to reduce this knowledge gap by examining how HT affects cellular immune function and biomarkers related to two of the most problematic side effects of breast cancer treatment, fatigue and radiation-induced tissue damage. Effects on the subjective experience of fatigue and clinician rated skin damage will also be noted. Participants will be 42 early stage breast cancer patients who are receiving a standard course of radiotherapy following breast conservation surgery or mastectomy who have either had chemotherapy or not

The significance of the project is as follows. If positive effects are demonstrated on intermediate outcomes such as immune parameters, markers of radiation damage, and/or fatigue, follow-up studies would be warranted examining effects of HT on a) recurrence and survival, b) incidence of long term side effects of radiation, c) quality of life among breast cancer patients. Additionally, if effects of HT are demonstrated, a critical examination of putative mechanisms of action, using controls for effect of attention, expectation, and other placebo effects will be warranted.


Ages Eligible for Study:   18 Years and older   (Adult, Senior)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   No

Inclusion Criteria:

  • Breast cancer patients who have received either a mastectomy or breast conservative surgery
  • Diagnosis of Stage I-IIIa breast cancer,
  • Receiving either chemotherapy + radiation or radiation alone

Exclusion Criteria:

  • Past history of cancer
  • Recurrent cancer
  • Greater than Stage IIIa breast cancer
  • History of immunosuppressive disorders (e.g. HIV, AIDS, hepatitis, etc.)
  • On immunosuppressive medications
  • On corticosteroids (e.g. Prednisone)
  Contacts and Locations
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Please refer to this study by its ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT00565305

United States, Iowa
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa, United States, 52242
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Iowa
Department of Health and Human Services
Principal Investigator: Susan K Lutgendorf, PhD Department of Psychology, University of Iowa
  More Information

Wirth D. The effect of non-contact therapeutic touch on the healing rate of full thickness dermal wounds. Subtle Energies 1:1-20, 1990.
Wirth D, Brenlan D, Levine R, Rodriguez C. The effect of complementary healing therapy on postoperative pain after surgical removal of impacted third molar teeth. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2:187-192, 1994.
Wirth D, Richardson J, Eidelman W, O'Malley A. Full thickness dermal wounds treated with non-contact therapeutic touch: A replication and extension. Complemenatary Therapies in Medicine 1:127-132, 1993.
Wirth D, Barret M, Eidelman W. Non-contact therapeutic touch and wound re-epithelialization: An extension of previous research. Complementary Therapies in Medicine 2:187-192, 1994.
Menthe J. Healing touch level I notebook, 1996.
Freel M, Hart L. Nurse's handbook of Alternative & Complementary therapies. Apringhouse, PA: Springhouse Publishing Co.: 61-82, 1999.

Responsible Party: Susan Lutgendorf, Professor, University of Iowa
ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT00565305     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: 200305053 
Study First Received: November 28, 2007
Last Updated: June 16, 2012

Keywords provided by University of Iowa:
healing touch
NK cytotoxicity
acute skin reaction

Additional relevant MeSH terms:
Breast Neoplasms
Neoplasms by Site
Breast Diseases
Skin Diseases

ClinicalTrials.gov processed this record on January 19, 2017