Systematic light exposure to prevent fatigue in prostate cancer patients

Project: Research project

Project Details


Prostate cancer is the most common non-cutaneous cancer diagnosis and the third leading cause of cancer death in men in the US. Radiation therapy (RT) is a common treatment for men with prostate cancer usually involving 8 to 9 weeks of treatment every weekday. Unfortunately, it is associated with a number of debilitating side effects. Up to 80% of cancer patients who undergo RT will experience fatigue, which is a distressing feeling of exhaustion related to cancer or its treatment that can impair a person’s ability to function both at work and at home. Since 38% of men with prostate cancer between the ages of 65 and 74 will receive RT, they are at high risk for fatigue. At the present time there are few treatments available to treat cancer-related fatigue. The proposed research will test a promising new intervention, systematic light exposure (sLE), which is commonly used to treat seasonal affective disorder and jet lag. It is non-invasive and easy to administer at home. sLE involves the delivery of light from a small light box 30 minutes each morning. Users can even read or undertake other activities during sLE. Our pilot work with sLE in cancer patients has shown clinical benefit with no negative side effects. It is hypothesized that the beneficial effects of sLE on fatigue are related to the role that light plays on the synchronization of our 24-hour cycles of activity, which is disrupted by both cancer and its medical treatment. There is strong clinical evidence that if these activity “rhythms” are disrupted, that fatigue may increase. In the proposed study, prostate cancer patients undergoing RT will receive sLE or a comparison light from identically appearing light boxes 30 minutes each morning for the duration of RT. Fatigue will be measured before, during, and at the end of light treatment, and then 8 weeks later. We will also measure circadian activity rhythms, sleep quality, depressed mood, and cognitive functioning. The proposed study represents an innovative approach to a clinically important issue. Indeed, it would be the first study to investigate the use of a low-cost, easy-to-implement, home-based sLE intervention to treat cancer-related fatigue in prostate cancer patients undergoing RT. If our results show clinically significant benefit to patients, then sLE can be easily disseminated. It has the potential to have major public health impact and transform how fatigue in cancer patients is managed.
Effective start/end date7/1/1812/31/22


  • American Cancer Society (RSG-18-053-01-PCSM)


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