Population Studies and Disparities - Pediatric Cancer Research

Pediatric Cancer Research

Intervention Research to Improve Pediatric Cancer Outcomes

Many pediatric cancer patients and their parents experience serious psychosocial and behavioral stressors and problems during and after completion of the course of treatment. Understanding the origins of these stressors and problems (i.e., risk factors) is a prerequisite for designing interventions to improve the pediatric cancer treatment experience and improving quality of survivorship outcomes. Program members are involved in a multi-site study at Children’s Hospital of Michigan (Detroit MI) and St Jude Children’s Hospital (Memphis, TN), focusing on how parents and children cope with and communicate during treatment-related clinic visits, found to be one of the most stressful aspects of the pediatric cancer experience for children and parents. In the first phase, we have identified specific parent cognitions and affect that serve to reduce their own and their children’s distress at the time of treatment and have long-term effects on parents’ own psychosocial well-being. One important finding is that higher caregiver self-efficacy at the time of treatments has beneficial effects for both patients and their parents. These findings have led to the development of a Motivational Interviewing intervention intended to increase parents’ self-efficacy at the time of difficult treatments. We are currently conducting a two-armed randomized clinical trial to evaluate the short- and longer-term impact of this intervention on psychosocial adjustment of both children and their parents.

  • Lead Researcher: Dr. Penner
  • Grant: R01 CA138981

In addition to our current intervention, we have identified certain enduring personal attributes (e.g., child resilience) that are associated with improved quality of life among pediatric cancer patients. These findings are providing the basis for a new R01 application, which will use long-term longitudinal data from the families in the current study to develop a profile of at-risk families and develop a “stepped” intervention intended to reduce the long-term risk of poor psychosocial outcome among families who have the greatest need.

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