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Mindfulness-based therapies for cancer patients and families: a systematic review
  1. Laura Torricelli1,
  2. Elisa Rabitti1,
  3. Valentina Cafaro1,
  4. Silvio Cavuto2,
  5. Francesco De Vincenzo3,
  6. Maristella Cavuoto1,
  7. Elena Turola2 and
  8. Silvia Di Leo1
  1. 1Psycho-oncology Unit, Azienda USL-IRCCS of Reggio Emilia, via Amendola, Reggio Emilia, Italy
  2. 2Clinical Trials and Statistics Unit, Azienda USL-IRCCS of Reggio Emilia, via Amendola, Reggio Emilia, Italy
  3. 3Department of Human Sciences, European University of Rome, via degli Aldobrandeschi, Rome, Lazio, Italy
  1. Correspondence to Elisa Rabitti, Psycho-oncology Unit, Azienda USL-IRCCS of Reggio Emilia, via Amendola, 2 - I-42122 Reggio Emilia, Italy, Reggio Emilia, Italy; elisa.rabitti{at}


Background Mindfulness-based therapies (MBTs) addressed to patients with cancer have been widely studied in the last two decades, and their efficacy has been systematically reviewed and meta-analysed. Although findings from literature highlight benefits of MBTs on several patients’ health outcomes, these should be appraised taking into consideration the characteristics of the selected studies. In this systematic review, we summarised the current evidence of the efficacy of MBTs in improving the quality of life of both patients with cancer and their relatives, with a focus on the methodological quality, type of MBT evaluated and population involved in existing randomised controlled trials (RCTs).

Methods We searched English language articles published until February 2021. Couples of authors independently applied inclusion criteria and extracted findings. Thirty RCTs were included.

Results Nearly half of the studies were performed in English-speaking countries outside of Europe, with females diagnosed with breast cancer. Most considered heterogeneous phases of illness; one study only was performed on relatives. In most cases, different measures were employed to evaluate the same outcome. The efficacy of MBTs has been demonstrated in 25 of the 30 included articles. The methodological quality of RCTs was acceptable.

Conclusion The heterogeneity of studies’ characteristics makes findings on the efficacy of MBTs poorly informative with reference to different clinical and cancer-related psychological conditions. Studies on more homogeneous samples by cancer site and phase, as well as performed in different cultural contexts, could provide a basis for better evaluating and targeting MBTs’ protocols for the specific needs of patients with cancer and their relatives.

  • cancer
  • quality of life

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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  • Contributors LT, SDL,ER and SC conceived and developed the study. Abstract identification and data extraction were carried out by LT, ER, VC and SDL, in collaboration with MC. The first four authors performed also the methodological quality assessment of the selected studies, together with FDV. Data analysis was carried out by SC. The first draft of the manuscript was written by LT, all authors contributed substantially to the following versions and ET gave a substantial contribute to its revision. All authors read and approved the final manuscript. SDL is responsible for the overall content and acts as guarantor of this systematic review.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.