A new project to transform the aftercare and improve the quality of life for cancer survivors is being delivered by Sheffield Hallam University thanks to a £2.5million funding award by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).
Led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Barts Health NHS Trust and King's College London, the SUrvivors' Rehabilitation Evaluation after CANcer (SURECAN) project will assess a variation of a talking therapy known as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), which puts patients’ views about what they value most in their lives at the heart of the therapy.
The project aims to conduct a full trial of around 350 participants at three centres in Sheffield and London to determine whether the talking-based therapy improves quality of life more than the usual aftercare, and will involve Macmillan Cancer Support.
Liam Bourke (pictured), professor of cancer research in Hallam's Faculty of Health and Wellbeing is leading the main trial in Sheffield. He said: "The impact of cancer and its treatment can be very difficult. Tailored interventions to help those people most in need are extremely important.
"Quality of life, personalised care and getting the best outcome for cancer patients go hand in hand. Treating any form of cancer can affect an individual both physically and mentally, as well as their family, work or vocation.
"Taking quality of life into consideration relies on understanding the patient’s values and preferences so that therapies can be tailored optimally and this project will focus on the patients’ individual needs to transform the aftercare for cancer survivors." - Professor Liam Bourke
ACT helps patients to accept what they cannot change (e.g. the cancer might recur) and commit themselves to goals they are able to and want to achieve, based on their own values (e.g. working and providing for their family).
As it is known that exercise is helpful and work is important to many patients, the therapy will have options for physical activity and work support, if these are deemed important by the patient.
Co-Chief Investigator Professor Steph Taylor from QMUL said: “There are some two million cancer survivors in the UK, which is a great success story, but about a third of these patients report poor quality of life or well-being. This is because of problems such as fatigue, fear of cancer recurrence, and concerns about returning to work.
“If the talking-based therapy proves successful and cost effective, it could be implemented across the NHS to help those cancer survivors who are struggling to cope after the completion of their treatment.”
Previous research suggests that a talking treatment - cognitive behavioural therapy - and exercise have some effect on improving the quality of life of cancer survivors.
Adrienne Morgan, a breast cancer survivor who is advising on the project from Independent Cancer Patients' Voice, said: “When I was diagnosed with incurable metastatic breast cancer, my husband and I were very fortunate to have counselling. We were helped through our anger and grief, brought to accept our ‘new normal’ and taught the tools to cope and enjoy every day as well as possible.
“Had we been given this counselling earlier, after my initial treatment, it would have helped enormously in adapting to that new normal, and I may have even been able to continue working in the job that I loved.”
SURECAN will also look at safety and cost-effectiveness, evaluate for whom and how the therapy works best, and how it could be adapted for different cultures, including patients in East London whose first language is Sylheti.
The project will also involve Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, University of Westminster, Brunel University, University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and University of Southampton.