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Enrollment Open for First-Ever Trial Testing Light Therapy for Smoking Cessation

PHILADELPHIA (February 18, 2010) – Researchers at Fox Chase Cancer Center are recruiting volunteers for the first-ever trial that tests whether light therapy can lessen the symptoms of nicotine withdrawal and help smokers quit.  According to the National Cancer Institute, smoking is a leading cause of cancer and of death from cancer.  New methods for quitting smoking are needed, which is why Fox Chase has opened the LIFT (Light Intervention for Tobacco Treatment) trial.

Light therapy is very effective for treating a number of different problems, including depressed mood, sleep disturbances, cognitive difficulties, increased appetite, and difficulty concentrating.  

“Many of the problems that light therapy is effective in treating are the same issues people experience when they are going through nicotine withdrawal,” says Amy Lazev, PhD, an assistant research professor of Cancer Prevention and Control at Fox Chase, who is leading the study. “So we want to see if light therapy can alleviate some of those symptoms, and help people get through the first few weeks of quitting smoking.”

Surveys show that the vast majority of smokers want to quit, yet 5% or less of those who make an attempt are successful. “For people who want to quit smoking and have tried everything without success, here is something new to try,” Lazev says. “Or if you are someone who is looking for something to try but are uncomfortable taking medication or can’t take the medications that are available, this is a new option.”

Study participants will be randomly assigned to one of two study arms. Each participant will receive counseling to support their effort to quit smoking and a light box. They will be asked to sit in front of the light box for 45 minutes each day for five weeks, starting one week before they stop smoking and continuing for four weeks after stopping.

“The majority of people who relapse, do so within the first two weeks after quitting, which is when nicotine withdrawal is at its height,” Lazev says. “Our program provides light therapy when nicotine withdrawal is most severe and the most help is needed.”

Lazev emphasizes that because this is the first test of light therapy for smoking cessation, they do not yet know whether it will help, but the treatment is safe and is already used for other disorders, such as seasonal affective disorder. Light therapy works for individuals with seasonal affective disorder by altering their biological clock (called circadian rhythm) and restoring healthy levels of melatonin. Because smokers’ biological clock and melatonin levels are also disrupted, Lazev thinks there is a good chance light therapy could help smokers quit successfully.

To be eligible for the trial, an individual has to be 18 years of age or older, smoke more than 10 cigarettes per day, be willing to set a quit date, and provide written informed consent.

To find out more about the study and participation, please call 866-526-6422.  The study is sponsored by Pfizer.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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