Psychoneurological symptoms are commonly reported by newly diagnosed head and neck cancer (HNC) patients, yet there is limited research on the associations of these symptoms with biomarkers of stress and inflammation. In this article, pre-treatment data of a multi-center cohort of HNC patients were analyzed using a network analysis to examine connections between symptoms (poor sleep quality, anxiety, depression, fatigue, and oral pain), biomarkers of stress (diurnal cortisol slope), inflammation markers (c-reactive protein [CRP], interleukin [IL]-6, IL-10, and tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α]), and covariates (age and body mass index [BMI]). Three centrality indices were calculated: degree (number of connections), closeness (proximity of a variable to other variables), and betweenness (based on the number of times a variable is located on the shortest path between any pair of other variables). In a sample of 264 patients, poor sleep quality and fatigue had the highest degree index; fatigue and CRP had the highest closeness index; and IL-6 had the highest betweenness index. The model yielded two clusters: a symptoms—cortisol slope—CRP cluster and a IL-6—IL-10—TNF-α—age—BMI cluster. Both clusters were connected most prominently via IL-6. Our findings provide evidence that poor sleep quality, fatigue, CRP, and IL-6 play an important role in the interconnections between psychoneurological symptoms and biomarkers of stress and inflammation in newly diagnosed HNC patients.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was carried out using the research infrastructure within the NETherlands Quality of life and Biomedical Cohort study in the head and neck cancer (NET-QUBIC) project funded by the Dutch Cancer Society/Alpe d’Huzes (grant number VU-2013-5930). The funding body had no role in the study design, the data collection, analysis, and interpretation, nor the manuscript preparation.
© 2022 by the authors.