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Development of glucocorticoid resistance and systemic inflammation in mothers whose children have been diagnosed with cancer

Walsh, Catherine (2017) Development of glucocorticoid resistance and systemic inflammation in mothers whose children have been diagnosed with cancer. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Chronic distress associates with upregulation of innate inflammation and prolonged release of cortisol, known to downregulate levels of inflammation. It is suggested that this paradox is related to distress-related down-regulation of glucocorticoid sensitivity. Caring for a child with cancer is a provocative stressor. Although most mothers cope well, 25-30% show prolonged distress. Here, we assessed distress, interleukin (IL)-6, and glucocorticoid resistance among 120 mothers at 1, 6, and 12 months after their child’s diagnosis. A latent factor for distress was indicated by depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress. Latent difference score models revealed a significant positive association between change in distress and change in GCR from 0-6 mo. (B = .490) and 6 mo. – 1 yr. (B = .739). The association across the second 6 mo. was retained in analyses that adjusted for peripheral leukocyte counts. IL-6 increased significantly from 0 – 6 mo. (α = 12.94), but this change was not associated with distress or GCR. These findings provide initial longitudinal evidence for an increase in GCR over the first 12 months following onset of a chronic stressor that parallels changes in distress. However, changes in GCR were unrelated to IL-6 over the same period. Future studies should consider additional pathways through which chronic stress relates to increases in IL-6. Given the health consequences of reduced sensitivity to the immunosuppressive effects of glucocorticoids, it is important to investigate the timing and mechanisms through which chronic stress relates to GCR.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Walsh, Catherinecpw23@pitt.educpw230000-0002-8905-4544
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairMarsland, Anna /
Committee MemberManuck, Stephen /
Committee MemberWright,
Date: 22 September 2017
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 2 March 2017
Approval Date: 22 September 2017
Submission Date: 26 May 2017
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 99
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: oncology, biological mechanisms, psychoneuroimmunology, leukocytes, latent change score, structural equation modeling
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2017 20:53
Last Modified: 22 Sep 2017 20:53

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