One Year Research Update:
Evidence suggests that people who undergo cancer treatment as teenagers and young adults have more trouble adjusting to life off treatment than their younger and older counterparts. In fact, these survivors are less likely to attend college or be employed, and often experience challenges with relationships and mental health.
Abby Rosenberg, MD, MS, from Seattle Children’s Hospital is a CureSearch Young Investigator exploring resilience in adolescent and young adult cancer patients so that in the future, it can be promoted. She hopes to understand the patient perspective of what it is to be resilient, what adolescents worry about, and how to give those that struggle the right tools to combat the issues they face. Dr. Rosenberg suspects that interventions and the “teaching of resilience” are most needed at times of great transition during cancer treatment, specifically three months into treatment and at the end of therapy. She also suspects that patient and parent perceptions of resilience will vary greatly, and that interventions for the whole family will be necessary.
In the first year of her work, 25 patients and their families from Seattle Children’s Hospital were enrolled in the first phase of the Promoting Resilience in Adolescents and Young Adults (RAYA) study and the first and second qualitative interviews took place with all enrollees. Preliminary data from the baseline surveys suggest that AYAs have high levels of psychological distress that may be mediated by personal resilience resources and social support. In addition, despite their diagnosis of cancer, they continue to engage in high-risk behaviors including illicit drugs, alcohol, and unprotected intercourse. These results suggest that skills such as stress-management, goal-setting, and meaning making may promote resilience in AYAs.
In the coming year, third stage interviews will be conducted with the original 25 patients and families, and an additional 25 patients will be enrolled at Boston Children’s Hospital/Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In addition, 12 patients from the first cohort of 25 will participate in a pilot intervention.
When an adolescent is diagnosed with cancer, their future is daunting, not only because of the cancer itself, but also because of the unique aspects of psychological and social development that occur during the teenage years.
Evidence suggests that people who undergo cancer treatment as teenagers and young adults have more difficulties adjusting than their younger and older counterparts. For example, these survivors are less likely to attend college or be employed, and they often experience challenges with relationships and mental health. And yet, this group of patients also has great potential for resilience; teenage and young adult survivors are more likely to express appreciation for life than younger survivors of childhood cancer.
Abby Rosenberg, MD, MS, from Seattle Children’s Hospital, plans to explore the concept of resilience in adolescent and young adult cancer patients so that, in the future, it can be promoted. She hopes to understand the patient perspective of what it is to be resilient, what adolescents worry about, and how to give those that struggle the right tools to combat the issues they face. Dr. Rosenberg hopes this research will enable these patients to become the adults they would have been, had they not experienced cancer. Ultimately, this research may translate to better quality of life in the years that follow treatment.
To conduct her research, Dr. Rosenberg will conduct both in-depth interviews and quantitative surveys of patients and parents at the time of diagnosis, three months into treatment, and at the end of therapy. She suspects that interventions and the “teaching of resilience” are most needed at these times of great transition. Dr. Rosenberg also suspects that the patient’s perceptions of resilience and that of his/her parents will be quite different; interventions will need to address the whole-family to be successful
Dr. Rosenberg hopes her work will lead to the creation of interventions to help identify and treat those patients at the highest risk for poor psycho-social outcomes, thus enabling better patient and family resilience after treatment ends.
Dr. Rosenberg will begin her research in 2013 and is funded by CureSearch for Children’s Cancer through the Young Investigators Program for two years, with year one funding by Sigma-Tau Pharmaceuticals. Throughout her research, CureSearch will share Dr. Rosenberg’s updates and insights into the progress of her research.