Stanford Cancer Institute

SCI Innovation Awardee

March 2023 - SCI Women’s Cancer Center Innovation Award

A $50,000 Stanford Women's Cancer Center Innovation award was awarded to Alia Crum, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology and, by courtesy, of Medicine; Lidia Schapira, MD, Professor of Medicine (Oncology); Michael Snyder, PhD, Stanford W. Ascherman Professor of Genetics; and David Spiegel, MD, PhD, Jack, Lulu, and Sam Willson Professor of Medicine, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, for their project entitled “Can changing cancer mindsets improve biomarkers of immune functioning? Piloting the effects of a novel digital intervention on direct-to-patient blood sampling and multiomics profiling.”

Mindsets are assumptions we make that help us to understand our experiences. The impact of mindsets about intelligence, stress, diet, and exercise on psychological and physiological outcomes is well-documented. For patients with cancer, adopting the mindset that cancer is “manageable” or even an “opportunity to grow” may engender a sense of hope, meaning, and proactive engagement with treatment, while adopting the mindset that cancer is a “catastrophe” may lead to despair and disengagement, making an already difficult time even more challenging. By shaping a patient’s core assumptions about the nature of their disease and their body’s capability to handle and recover from treatment, mindset interventions may influence a person’s experience and even their physiology. Dr. Crum’s previous research demonstrated that a 2.5-hour mindset intervention involving documentary-style film clips and reflection questions significantly improved physical, social, emotional, and functional wellbeing in patients with cancer. Through the support of the SCI Women's Cancer Center Innovation award, Dr. Crum and her collaborators will take the necessary next steps in their research to understand if their intervention may also influence a person’s physiology and immune function. Their project is innovative and collaborative, synergizing the expertise of researchers in oncology, psychology, psychiatry, and precision medicine with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of patients undergoing cancer treatment.