Oncology Supportive Care Research
Cancer patients are faced with a host of physical, psychological, and social problems associated with cancer diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. Oncology Supportive Care is the evolving area that addresses these needs. Because of the lack of research, many supportive care treatment decisions are based on the experience of physicians and nurses. In order to provide evidence-based supportive care, research must be conducted. The scope and breadth of Oncology Supportive Care is very broad and spans numerous disciplines. Thus, effective research initiatives must draw on multiple disciplines, including cancer biology, psychology, nursing nutrition, physiology, and biostatistics.
In order to address the need for increased high quality research in the area of Oncology Supportive Care, the Pain and Symptom Management Program established a Research Team. In the past three years, the team has grown from a handful of interested investigators to a group of individuals that represent diverse disciplines and numerous institutions. The team meets monthly to provide investigators a forum to discuss new proposals, establish collaborative projects, and to discuss issues in statistics, methodology, and analysis of research results. Work conducted by the Research team is truly state of the science and the researchers are poised to lead this field of inquiry.
Program of Research/ Current Clinical Trials
Research efforts within the PSMP Research Team are broad based and diverse. Over the past three years, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of investigator initiated Supportive Care trials as well as an increase in the number of patients accrued to supportive care studies. Current studies can be found listed under Supportive Care Clinical Trials.
In 1996, Vanderbilt developed a formal alliance with Meharry Medical College to advance the educational and research needs of minority investigators and to improve the health care delivery of the underserved population in the greater Nashville area. The Vanderbilt/Meharry Alliance has a strong program in cancer research, with particular emphasis on health care delivery, health disparities, and outreach. The Research Team numbers several investigators who are Alliance members and actively working to develop cooperative studies in Supportive Oncology.
The Peabody College, Vanderbilt University’s college of education and human development, has a robust program in Psychology and Cognition. To strengthen the relationship between the VICC and Peabody, Patricia and Rhodes Hart endowed a Chair in Psycho-oncology. This allowed the recruitment of Bruce Compas PhD, a leading investigator in the processes of coping and self-regulation in response to stress and adversity. Working with other investigators throughout Vanderbilt, Dr. Compas is developing a cutting edge psycho-oncology research and training program. This includes the use of neuroimaging techniques to measure the cognitive effects of chemotherapy and collaboration with experts in the measurement and treatment of depression to better understand depressive symptoms and disorders in cancer patients.
Through the activities of the PSMP, the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing has developed a strong and productive relationship with the VICC. In response to the obvious synergy, the School of Nursing has identified Oncology Supportive Care as a high research priority. The Nursing School was recently awarded a construction grant from the NIH to renovate part of the school. A portion of these funds will go toward the construction of an office for Nursing Research in Cancer Supportive Care. Kathleen Dwyer, PhD, a member of our Advisory Committee and an instructor for two of the core didactic courses, was named the first “Director of Nursing Research in Cancer Supportive Care. The School of Nursing has offered two of its first postdoctoral positions to trainees in the area of Oncology Supportive Care. Thus, the relationship between the VICC and the School of Nursing is rapidly strengthening and will provide support for research in Oncology Supportive Care.
The VICC and VU have established a partnership with Alive Hospice, the largest not-for-profit Hospice in middle Tennessee.
In April of 2000, the Department of Cancer Biology was formed and Lynn Matrisian, Ph.D., was named the Director. Dr. Matrisian, is working with the PSMP to develop collaborative efforts between basic scientists and clinical researchers in order to understand the mechanisms underlying supportive care issues.
The Center for Health Services Research, directed by Robert Dittus MD, has a strong partnership with the VICC. The Center has more than 25 full-time faculty and is home to the VICC’s Population Health Sciences Program. This program boasts several large cohort studies including the Southern Community Cohort Project which is a collaborative effort between Meharry Medical Center, the VICC, the International Epidemiology Institute, the NIH, and community health centers across six southern states. The study is actively accruing over 100,000 predominantly minority participants to identify reasons for the higher incidence of cancer among the African-American population. Information about health behaviors including diet, activity and high-risk behaviors as well as biological specimens will be collected.
Other ongoing collaborations in development include the Departments of Psychology, Psychology and Human Development, and Biomedical Engineering.