Partnership Opportunities

Exploring Psychosocial Biomarkers in Children and Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs) with Cancer

Using biosensors and other digital health technology to link stress biomarkers with immune system changes and medical outcomes

Technical overview

A headshot of a woman with long brown hair smiling at the cameraPediatric oncologist Mallory R. (“Molly”) Taylor, MD, MS, seeks to understand the mechanisms that link mind and body during a patient’s cancer journey: what are the protective or harmful psychosocial and socioenvironmental factors and how can these factors affect clinical and biologic outcomes for children and AYAs with cancer. This work in the emerging fields of stress biomarker research and psychoneuroimmunology aims to provide some of the first psychosocial biomarker data in the pediatric cancer population.

Taylor and team are interested in how a patient’s immune system can be affected by anxiety, depression and stress—but also by resilience and hope. They are also examining how social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity and income, influence the immune system so they have a clearer picture of the biology of cancer and clinical outcomes. Wearable devices such an activity tracker or smartwatch that a patient wears on their wrist can provide measurable data on a patient’s physiological and mental state.

Wearable devices and sensors are a non-burdensome, noninvasive method to get high-resolution, real-time data on these factors’ underlying physiologic mechanisms in a patient. One biomarker, for example, is heart rate variability, which serves as a surrogate for autonomic nervous system activity. Biosensors in production or development could allow researchers to collect other markers of the “fight-or-flight” response such as electrodermal activity (EDA) or even excretion of inflammatory proteins. This information gives insight into a patient’s state of arousal in response to stimuli (i.e., stress response). Overall, these data capture objective measures of the pediatric and AYA patient experience during the full trajectory of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship.

The hope is to arrive at a more holistic picture of what's happening at various time points in the mind, brain and immune system of patients during this tumultuous time to inform larger biopsychosocial intervention studies by identifying patients who are at higher risk of worse outcomes based on stress biomarker data. This foundational information could help clinicians stratify patients by risk and intervene earlier to improve patient outcomes, including those going through intensive treatments such as bone marrow transplant or CAR T-cell therapy, populations that may be at the extreme end of treatment and stress.

Taylor is interested in partnering with others in the wearables and sensors industry to develop noninvasive and real-time approaches to track stress biomarkers and other biomarkers in patients with cancer. Seattle Children’s, a tertiary care pediatric referral center serving a 5-state region, treats many cancer patients and is an international leader in transplant and immunotherapy. Collaborative research on wearables to track metrics such as heart rate variability, skin conductance, oxygen saturation and inflammatory cytokines could result in new indications for sensors and devices.

Stage of Development

Clinical research

Partnering Opportunities

Collaborative research and development

Sponsored research agreement

Clinical trials

Investigator-initiated clinical trials

Device development


Taylor MR, Steineck A, Lahijani S, et al. Biobehavioral implications of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy: Current state and future directionsTransplant Cell Ther. 2023;29(1):19-26.

Taylor MR, Knight JM, Rosenberg AR. The biology of stress in cancer: Applying the biobehavioral framework to adolescent and young adult oncology researchBrain Behav Immun Health. 2021;17:100321. 

Taylor, MR, Scott SR, Steineck A, Rosenberg AR. Objectifying the subjective: The use of heart rate variability as a psychosocial symptom biomarker in hospice and palliative care researchJ Pain Symptom Manage. 2021;62(3):e315-e321.

Kelly DL, Syrjala K, Taylor M, et al. Biobehavioral research and hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: Expert review from the Biobehavioral Research Special Interest Group of the American Society for Transplantation and Cellular TherapyTransplant Cell Ther. 2021;27(9):747-757.

Learn More

Molly Taylor, MD, MS

To learn more about partnering with Seattle Children’s Research Institute on this or other projects, email the Office of Science-Industry Partnerships