Research Brief

Exploring Daily Salivary Cortisol Patterns as Biomarkers of Chronic Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy Pain

Robert Knoerl

Anita Giobbie-Hurder

Juliana Berfield

Donna Berry

Jeffrey Meyerhardt

Alexi Wright

Jennifer Ligibel

chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, biomarker, cancer survivors, cortisol, HPA axis
ONF 2022, 49(3), 207-211. DOI: 10.1188/22.ONF.207-211

Objectives: Little is known about the biologic mechanisms of chronic chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) pain. The purpose of this secondary analysis was to explore salivary cortisol patterns among cancer survivors with chronic CIPN pain to provide preliminary data regarding the role of hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysregulation in the pathophysiology of this condition.

Sample & Setting: 13 cancer survivors with chronic CIPN pain recruited from the breast, gastrointestinal, and gynecologic cancer centers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts.

Methods & Variables: Salivary cortisol was collected on awakening, 30 minutes after awakening, and before going to bed on two consecutive days. Cortisol awakening response and diurnal cortisol slope were calculated by averaging results across two days.

Results: Cortisol was available from 13 participants. The median cortisol awakening response was –0.03 mcg/dl, and the average diurnal cortisol slope was –0.24 mcg/dl.

Implications for Nursing: Mechanism-based treatments are needed for cancer survivors with chronic CIPN pain. Nurse scientists may use study results to explore stress-related mechanisms of chronic CIPN pain.

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