Sleep Centre team scoops Pfizer oncology award

A team of scientists from the Glasgow Sleep Centre won the best patient support initiative category at the Pfizer Excellence in Oncology Awards.

Professor Colin Espie and his team in the Department of Psychological Medicine at the University of Glasgow were recognised for the cognitive-behavioural therapy programme they developed for cancer patients suffering insomnia.

The competition judges remarked that “this study has successfully addressed a huge unmet need for many cancer patients and therefore is of real clinical significance. The study is unique to the UK and was very well assessed in prestigious publications. This initiative could make a big difference to many patients”. Dr Leanne Fleming

The programme, developed as a treatment for insomniacs, secured a grant from Cancer Research UK to study the potential benefits of CBT therapy in cancer sufferers with insomnia.

The team recruited four cancer nurses to trains as CBT therapists who delivered treatment to 100 people, who had been successfully treated for cancer, over a five week period.

The results showed CBT had significantly improved sleep continuity with participants falling asleep more quickly, sleeping better during the night and obtaining a greater amount of sleep. At post-treatment and 6 month follow up assessments, participants achieved sleep scores which fell below the clinical cut-off for insomnia disorder.

CBT for insomnia was also associated with generalised benefits to health related quality of life with anxiety, depression and fatigue all significantly reduced compared with no change in 50 patients who received no CBT or ‘treatment as usual’.Prof Colin Espie

The team is now looking at how to roll out the CBT programme during active cancer treatment.

Colin said: “It is hugely satisfying to win this award, which recognises the hard work of our team and the excellent results they have achieved which we hope will help many more sufferers of cancer to gain better sleep.”

Dr Leanne Fleming, research fellow who conducted the study, said: “There’s no reason why this programme couldn’t be used by patients with other medical conditions which disrupt their sleep. We are also planning to trial it in a palliative care setting too.”

For more information contact Stuart Forsyth in the University of Glasgow Media Relations Office on 0141 330 4831 or email

First published: 15 October 2009

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