The rate of survival for childhood cancer continues to improve and now approaches 80%. Coincident with this survival are adverse long-term health-related outcomes for survivors and their family members. Throughout the cancer care continuum, from time of diagnosis through long-term survivorship, children and their families are confronted with multiple and pervasive stressors, including uncertainty about the chance of survival, treatment- related adverse health effects, disruption in daily activities and disruption of the parental role function. This may result in clinically significant global distress, depression, posttraumatic stress (PTS) and reduced self-efficacy. Therefore, providing psychosocial services to parents of children with cancer is necessary. Yet, feasible and theory-based psychosocial intervention studies are extremely limited, particularly at the completion of the child's cancer treatment, a time known to be anxiety-provoking and often characterized by feelings of abandonment and uncertainty about the future. Barriers to participation in face-to-face interventions at the treating institution include the considerable distance that many families live from the institution, difficulty leaving children, households or jobs and potential for sensory and interpersonal experiences at the treating institution to trigger symptoms of anxiety and PTS. In response to these concerns, we are proposing to extend the reach of essential psychosocial counseling services to primary caregivers of children with cancer by designing and implementing a small-scale feasibility pilot of an innovative and highly translatable telephone-based psychosocial intervention. This intervention will be implemented during the transition from primary active oncology treatment to follow-up care, reflecting a neglected area of research. Specifically, we propose to design and then test the feasibility of a two-group randomized trial of a psychosocial telephone counseling program for primary caregivers of children who have completed cancer therapy in the previous year, consisting of an attention control condition (educational materials and outcalls with no counseling) and an experimental condition (telephone counseling plus the educational materials). We will evaluate the proposed telephone counseling intervention for feasibility, satisfaction and perceived helpfulness. The primary endpoints will include psychosocial distress and benefit finding. Furthermore, we will assess and explore the plausible intervention mechanisms and pathways that may explain and elucidate intervention efficacy (mediator variables). The main theory-based mediator variables that will be tested include secondary appraisal (coping self-efficacy) and coping effort. Lastly, based on the preliminary data obtained from this study, we will seek funding to design and implement a larger randomized clinical efficacy trial, whose ultimate goal will be to develop a highly effective and exportable telephone counseling intervention for primary caregivers of children with cancer that could be become an integral component of care given to pediatric oncology patients.

Public Health Relevance

Survival from childhood cancer now approaches 80%, resulting in a growing cohort of survivors. However, this survival may be accompanied by significant psychosocial challenges for the children and their parents, which can last for many years after the child is cured. While there has been much focus on the psychosocial well- being of childhood cancer survivors, there is less research on improving the psychosocial well-being of their parents. We are proposing to address this by designing and conducting a small-scale feasibility pilot of an innovative telephone-based psychosocial intervention targeted to primary caregivers of children with cancer in the first year following completion of their child's cancer therapy, a time characterized by concern and anxiety about what the future holds for their child.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Behavioral Medicine, Interventions and Outcomes Study Section (BMIO)
Program Officer
Rowland, Julia
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Schools of Medicine
United States
Zip Code