Despite dramatic advances in the understanding of cancer and its treatment, the majority of individuals with cancer still suffer from fatigue, pain, anxiety, insomnia, depressive symptoms, and poor appetite. These debilitating symptoms not only affect quality of life, but also impact healthcare utilization, adherence to cancer treatment, and possibly even survival. Supportive oncology (palliative care, symptom management, psychosocial oncology, and survivorship) aims to address these concerns. However, the evidence base for supportive oncology interventions is still emerging. Additional research is necessary to guide clinical care and the IOM identified a critical shortage of trained investigators in supportive oncology to meet this need. Responding to national calls to address this gap, we propose to renew our highly successful Cancer Research Education Grant to continue to train new investigators in supportive oncology research. In the last four years, we trained 143 early-career investigators through an annual intensive workshop on research methods in supportive oncology. Participants significantly gained research knowledge and skills, 100% had completed research protocols at the end of the workshop, and over 80% later implemented these protocols at their home institutions. In the three years after the workshop, participants from the first class in 2015 obtained over $21.6 million in research funding (a return of $72 for every dollar of direct costs of the grant that year) and published 21 papers with new collaborators from their workshop class. Demand to participate remains high. Approach and setting: Over five years, we propose to train five classes of early-stage researchers from diverse disciplines (physicians, nurses, psychologists, and social workers) by continuing an annual intensive six-day workshop in Boston with the resources of two Harvard institutions: Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI). Our institutional commitment is substantial, including the Harvard Medical School Center for Palliative Care assuming the management of workshop logistics. The primary goal of the workshop is to train early-stage investigators in essential research methods in supportive oncology, which will enable them to write scientifically rigorous study protocols and implement these protocols across the US. Each day of the workshop, participants attend didactic sessions on a broad range of relevant methods and meet in small writing groups led by R01-funded supportive oncology investigators. With daily feedback and mentorship, participants write a complete research protocol over the six days. Faculty: We have assembled an outstanding team of experts in supportive oncology (established independent researchers, grant reviewers, and journal editors) to plan, produce, and evaluate the workshop. As leaders of highly-productive and well-known supportive oncology programs at DFCI and MGH, the PIs (Drs. Pirl and Temel) possess the requisite experience and leadership skills to organize this workshop.

Public Health Relevance

Cancer continues to cause suffering, both physically and psychologically. While supportive oncology research has potential to alleviate this suffering, more research and trained investigators are needed. We propose to continue a successful intensive training program on supportive oncology research methods to meet this need.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Education Projects (R25)
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Subcommittee I - Transistion to Independence (NCI)
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Korczak, Jeannette F
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Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
United States
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Pirl, William F; Greer, Joseph A; Park, Elyse et al. (2018) Development and evaluation of a six-day training program in supportive oncology research. Palliat Support Care 16:656-661