Current Research Focus

Current Survivorship Research Focus

Cancer rehabilitation and returning to employment

Improving the poor rate of return to employment in cancer survivors is of major importance for those directly affected and for society in general. With improved cancer outcomes, the number of cancer survivors in Australia is steadily increasing and currently represents approximately 700,000. Half of all patients diagnosed with a curable malignancy are under 65, the age of retirement, and approximately 1 in 3 working cancer survivors do not return to employment. Studies have shown that cancer survivors are approximately 1.4 times more likely to be unemployed. Our research aims to develop strategies to assist cancer survivors in returning to employment.

Investigators: Prof Bogda Koczwara, Ms Amanda Robertson

Coordinating care for cancer patients: Linking primary, secondary and tertiary services

This study will research the care provided to, and needed by colorectal cancer patients.

The impact of cancer on a person’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual well-being is multifaceted. Subsequently, the care needs of cancer patients are complex, requiring care by a team of medical practitioners, nurses, allied health staff, social workers, alternative therapists, family and friends. Evidence indicates that better cancer outcomes can be achieved through a coordinated approach involving a diverse health care team.

This study will provide South Australian data on the care needs of colorectal cancer patients, and the current practices in the provision of care to these patients. This will be achieved by undertaking an electronic survey and interviews with health professionals, as well as interviews with patients and caregivers. From our analysis, any systematic differences or similarities in the experiential data will enable the researchers to develop recommendations on current practices, to increase equity of colorectal cancer management.

The study aims to extend the current body of literature on coordinated care for people with cancer, and provide a rigorously tested survey for use within the wider cancer community.

Investigators: Dr Angelita Martini, Prof Bogda Koczwara, Ms Kirsty Prior

Exercise and cancer

Lifestyle intervention incorporating exercise and nutritional advice have the potential to ameliorate the functional disability of cancer survivors in a cost effective fashion. In doing so, this will also improve the health status of cancer survivors and reduce health care costs associated with the ongoing chronic illness of cancer survivors.
Our research aims to develop flexible tailored exercise interventions to increase uptake of exercise among cancer survivors and improve their physical and emotional function thereby optimising their wellbeing.

Investigators: Prof Bogda Koczwara, Ms Kathryn Jackson

Fertility and cancer

Chemotherapy can lead to early menopause and infertility in some patients. The likelihood of this occurring depends upon the type of chemotherapy given and individual patient factors which determine the patient’s ovarian reserve. Recently, a predictive model has been developed in the general population which can be used to estimate the age at which an individual patient will be expected to experience menopause based on their level of antimullerian hormone. This hormone is a promising marker of ovarian reserve. Our research aims to develop a predictive model of chemotherapy induced menopause in cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy using measurement of antimullerian hormone. Such a model will assist in decision making regarding fertility preservation strategies and future planning by allowing specific information to be provided to the patient regarding their individual risk of menopause post chemotherapy. In the study, patient’s levels of antimullerian hormone are measured pre, during and post chemotherapy, with menstrual function and menopausal symptoms also recorded, as well as quality of life data.

Investigators: Dr Hilary Martin, Prof Bogda Koczwara

Nutrition – weight gain post cancer

While most cancer patients and providers are concerned about weight loss whilst undergoing cancer treatment, many cancer patients treated with curative intent gain weight as a result of treatment.

This research project aims to gain a greater understanding of weight change amongst cancer survivors in order to develop effective strategies for weight management after treatment.

Investigators: Prof Bogda Koczwara, A/Prof Michelle Miller

Return to driving after a diagnosis of brain tumour

Return to driving after recovery from neurological damage improves independence and quality of life. But, there is a general apprehension about the driving ability of brain tumour (BT) survivors.

Identifying individuals who are safe to return to driving following the diagnosis and treatment of BT requires validated assessment tools and a better understanding of their driving behaviour.

The aim of this research is to evaluate the ability of assessment tools to predict the outcome of an on road assessment for BT survivors. This information will inform clinical practice by evaluating objective measures for practitioners to guide decision-making related to driving following BT’s.  

Investigators: Dr Stacey George, Dr Ganessan Kichenadasse

Support and self-management in cancer

Although conventional face-to-face psychosocial interventions are demonstrably effective at ameliorating the clinical distress resulting from cancer diagnosis, only 14% to 21% of people in Australia attend. Online self-help interventions have to the potential to overcome many attendance barriers.

This randomised controlled trial (RCT) aims to establish the efficacy of 'iCanCope' (the internet Cancer Coping guide), a 6-week self-help therapeutic program for cancer-related distress.

The RCT will compare the effects of the intervention with an online attention control, in improving the distress, coping and quality of life, over time. This research is significant as online psychosocial therapeutic interventions offers a way of alleviating the burden of cancer on existing health services. This program is also being offered to carers and loved ones of patients with cancer.

Investigators: Dr Lisa Beatty, Prof Tracey Wade, Prof Bogda Koczwara

Supportive care – the needs of carers

Individuals may require different forms of support over the course of their cancer experience (e.g., emotional support, practical assistance with household activities, childcare and transport, information about nutrition, financial assistance, etc.).

Our pilot investigation examines the degree to which the needs of women with early stage breast cancer are met adequately during chemotherapy and during the two years after completion of acute treatment. Given that significant others (e.g., partners, adult children, friends) provide a great deal of informal support, the perceived unmet needs of key support people will also be explored to determine the extent to which such needs are similar to or different from those of patients.

This research will offer preliminary insight into possible gaps in the personal, social and financial resources available to patients and their significant others and highlight the areas in need of more timely and specific forms of support. Consideration will be given to the potential psychosocial implications of any differences in unmet needs between the patient and her key support person.

Investigators: Dr Kirsty Prior, Prof Bogda Koczwara

Major Collaborators

Carlene Wilson
Centre for Health Care Management – Flinders University