elderly people

Understanding the why in successful ageing among cancer survivors: Examining the role of inflammation and the kynurenine pathway [Seed Funding]

Half of all cancer survivors live in poor health negatively affecting successful ageing processes across the lifespan. Dr. Schoormans, prof.dr. van de Poll-Franse, dr. Ballhausen, dr. Joossen, and dr. Van Deun plan to conduct a study in which they will use advanced statistical approaches to identify networks of mutually interacting factors of successful ageing among cancer survivors and examine whether inflammation and imbalance of the kynurenine pathway are underlying mechanisms. This knowledge is needed to identify cancer survivors who age successfully and direct customized interventions to improve successful ageing. The provided seed funding will allow them to conduct a pilot study in which they assess markers of inflammation and metabolites of the kynurenine pathway among a small sample of colorectal cancer survivors. This project is part of the Healthy Lifespan Theme.

Successful aging

Successful ageing comprises four domains: (I) High function of physical/mental/cognitive capacity, (II) Engaging actively in life, (III) Avoiding disease and disability, and (IV) Psychologically well-adapted in later life. To improve successful ageing among cancer survivors, it is important to use a holistic approach combining mutually interacting prohibiting and enabling aspects of successful ageing. A multidisciplinary focus, integrating social, psychological, cognitive, and biological perspectives, is therefore essential. Research focusing on underlying mechanisms is needed to guide identification of those who age successfully and direct customized interventions aimed at increasing the number of successfully ageing cancer survivors.

Underlying biological mechanisms – understanding why?

Lab, animal, and non-cancer population studies suggest that inflammation and imbalance of the kynurenine pathway are underlying biological mechanisms of single prohibiting (e.g. depression), and enabling (e.g. resilience) aspects of successful ageing. Both suggested mechanisms impact each other and are argued to be especially relevant for successful ageing among cancer survivors, as inflammation is vital for tumor development and progression; and metabolites of the kynurenine pathway weakens the immune response in various types of cancer.  We will examine the relation between inflammatory markers and metabolites of the kynurenine pathway with the multi-factorial construct successful ageing among cancer survivors by means of network analyses.

Team

The multidisciplinary concept of successful ageing requires integration of social, psychological, cognitive, and biological perspectives. Furthermore, the high dimensional data collection including multiple time-points and various sources (questionnaires, cognitive tests, fitbits) requires advanced modelling techniques. Therefore, the research team is embedded in the department MCP where expertise on functioning and life satisfaction in light of disease and the involvement of underlying biological mechanisms is present (prof.dr. van de Poll-Franse and dr. Schoormans); the department of Developmental Psychology were dr. Ballhausen will add her knowledge on cognitive functioning across the lifespan; TRANZO will provide expertise on actively engaging in working life and enabling factors of successful ageing (dr. Joosen); and the MTO department is essential in providing insights into using network analyses on high dimensional data (dr. Van Deun).

Contact

Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.