Sleep disturbance, particularly insomnia, is far more prevalent in cancer survivors than in the general population. Insomnia is thought to occur in 40 percent to 65 percent of patients following anti-cancer treatment. Apart from its ubiquity, insomnia is strongly associated with fatigue and reduced quality of life (QOL) and is thought to be an important contributing factor to both. To date, very few studies have been conducted to determine if established methods used to treat insomnia in the general population, e.g., cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), are also effective in treating the insomnia that occurs with cancer and/or its treatment. New treatment strategies for this problem in cancer survivors are also needed, particularly ones that address the persistent fatigue that occurs in this patient group. A prime candidate for such research is modafinil. Preliminary data from our group show that modafinil reduces sleep problems and fatigue in breast cancer patients post treatment. We have also completed a study showing that modafinil enhances treatment compliance with CBT-I in patients with primary insomnia. These two initial studies, coupled with a recently published, very successful, randomized, controlled trial of CBT-I in breast cancer survivors, suggest a role for both CBT-I and modafinil in treating insomnia in cancer survivors. Accordingly, we propose that the combination of therapies will be particularly efficacious in cancer patients because the combined approach will allow for the management of the often interrelated symptoms of insomnia and fatigue in cancer survivors. Methods: 226 Breast cancer survivors with chronic insomnia will be recruited and randomized to one of four treatment conditions (CBT-I, modafinil, both, or neither). The seven-week intervention is designed to determine the efficacy and acceptability of these treatment strategies in reducing insomnia and fatigue and in improving QOL in cancer survivors. Assessments will be made by diary and by questionnaires before, during, two weeks following, and three months following the study intervention. In addition, pre- and post-intervention polysomnographic assessments will be conducted in 100 of the 226 patients in order to characterize the effects of these interventions on sleep architecture.
Insomnia in cancer survivors is largely unacknowledged by the medical community even though it is approximately twice as prevalent as in the general population. It exacerbates fatigue and diminishes QOL. The efficacy of CBT-I in treating insomnia in cancer survivors needs to be verified, and new treatment options, e.g., modafinil with or with out CBT-I, need to be studied.