Emerging evidence suggests that psychosocial factors pre-transplant predict survival in cancer patients undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). These studies, however, typically have small sample sizes, short-term follow ups or a limited panel of medical covariates. We extend this research in a large, well-characterized sample of transplant patients, asking whether patients' perceived emotional support and psychological distress predict mortality over 2 years. Prior to transplant, 400 cancer patients (55.5% males; 82.8% White; M age =50.0 years; 67.0% leukemia, 20.0% lymphoma) were interviewed by a social caseworker, who documented the patients' perceived emotional support and psychological distress. Subsequently, patients received an allogeneic HSCT (51.0% matched-related donor, 42.0% matched-unrelated donor and 7.0% cord blood). HSCT outcomes were obtained from medical records. Controlling for demographic characteristics (age, sex, race/ethnicity and marital status) and medical confounders (disease type, conditioning regimen, remission status, cell dosage, donor and recipient CMV seropositivity, donor sex, comorbidities and disease risk), ratings of good emotional support pre-transplant predicted longer overall survival (hazard ratio (HR)=0.61, 95% confidence interval (CI), 0.42-0.91; P=0.013). Pre-transplant psychological distress was unrelated to survival, however (Ps>0.58). Emotional support was marginally associated with lower rates of treatment-related mortality (HR=0.58, CI, 0.32-1.05; P=0.073). These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that emotional support contributes to better outcomes following HSCT. Future studies should examine whether intervention efforts to optimize emotional resources can improve survival in cancer patients.
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