The 2019 Herd of Hope Team Science Research Award

How might the stress of a cancer diagnosis affect the health of our patients, their treatment outcomes and the well-being of caregivers? How can we help patients manage stress or counter its effects? That’s what Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Betsy Repasky, PhD, and the rest of the team that received the 2019 Herd of Hope Team Science Award want to find out.


Herd of Hope brings the Western New York community together in pursuit of the next big cancer breakthrough. Individuals and companies can purchase a blue buffalo statue to display as a sign of their commitment to Roswell Park and to helping save lives through the kind of cutting-edge cancer research possible only at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.

In late 2019, Roswell Park researchers competed for the $500,000 prize funding a project with the potential to impact the way we diagnose, prevent and treat cancer. Following a competitive review by a committee of scientific leaders, the project headed by Dr. Ambrosone was chosen for this community-driven grant.

“An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding How Stress Affects the Cancer-Immune Equilibrium and Patient Outcomes”

This study will comprise four projects investigating different aspects of the connection between stress and cancer. The researchers’ goal is a grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish a Center of Excellence in Stress Research at Roswell Park. This goal would not be possible without this initial funding from donors. The projects include:

  1. Investigating interactions between chronic stress, the way tumors develop, and the role of the immune system in survival outcomes.
  2. An analysis of how racial background may be influencing the immune response in the tumor microenvironment.
  3. Exploring the roles of various stressors on cancer patients and their caregivers as well as how both adapt to stress.
  4. Determining how stress is influencing the efficacy of immunotherapies and whether interventions to reduce stress improve efficacy.

In one of the studies, the team is conducting a pilot study to assess the feasibility of mindfulness meditation for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. This will form the foundation for a larger study to understand if mindfulness meditation can improve stress-related outcomes — including on the immune response — among cancer patients and their caregivers.

“Our team is grateful to members of the WNY community for contributing to this award, which will allow us to build the capacity to conduct research studying how stressors can affect cancer growth and progression,” says Dr. Ambrosone. “Bringing together scientists from different disciplines, including immunology, cell stress, sociology, epidemiology and physical therapy, our team science approach will hopefully broaden our understanding of how stress can affect patient outcomes and, importantly, how we may intervene to reduce stress responses in patients.

“We believe that this ‘it takes a herd’ approach will allow us to develop psychological, behavioral, immunological and pharmacological strategies to reduce adrenergic stress and assess how these strategies affect patient outcomes and survivorship.”

The leaders of the 2019 Herd of Hope team science project are:

Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention; Chair, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Elizabeth Repasky, PhD, the Dr. William Huebsch Professorship in Immunology, Department of Immunology

Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Scott Abrams, PhD, Department of Immunology

Marina Antoch, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Kristopher Attwood, PhD, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Co-Director, Biostatistics and Statistical Genomics Shared Resource

Rikki Cannioto, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Fangyi Gu, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Chi-Chen Hong, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Megan Pailler, PhD, Department of Psychosocial Oncology

Andrew Ray, PT, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Song Yao, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center