John Theurer Cancer Center Scientists Develop Web-Based Intervention Addressing Distress in Caregivers of Patients Receiving Stem Cell Transplant

A group of researchers from several institutions in the United States, including Hackensack-based John Theurer Cancer Center, studied the development of a new, web-based intervention – Pep-Pal – to provide psychoeducation and skills for caregivers of cancer patients who are experiencing significant burden and distress including depression and anxiety.

One-on-one stress management intervention is an effective method in reducing distress in caregivers of patients receiving allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants (allo-HSCT). Pep-Pal adapts in-person caregiver stress management intervention to a mobilized website (e.g., tablet, smartphone, or computer-based device) for self-administration in order to reduce distress for caregivers and improve access to populations most in need.

The Pep-Pal program, which consists of 9 sessions (Introduction to Stress, Stress and the Mind Body Connection, How Thoughts Can Lead to Stress, Coping with Stress, Strategies for Maintaining Energy and Stamina, Coping with Uncertainty, Managing Changing Relationships and Communicating Needs, Getting the Support You Need, and Improving Intimacy) is delivered via video instruction through a mobilized website.

“I’m excited about the potential to disseminate evidence-based resources to hard-to-reach populations, specifically, caregivers of patients with advanced cancer,” said Nicole Amoyal Pensak, PhD, lead author of the study and Assistant Scientist at the Department of Research, Cancer Prevention and Control John Theurer Cancer Center. Dr. Amoyal Pensak added, “Although caregivers may have barriers to accessing treatment, technology allows us to bring effective interventions to them.”

A report of the study findings, published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research Research Protocols on June 22, 2017 indicates that feedback from stakeholder groups, focus groups, and individual interviews were integrated into the development of Pep-Pal with the goal of enhancing dissemination, engagement, acceptability, and anticipated usability.

Other authors on this paper include Tanisha Joshi PhD of Department of Medicine, University of Colorado Denver, Anschutz Medical Campus, Aurora, CO; Teresa Simoneau, PhD of VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System, Golden, CO; Kristin Kilbourn PhD, MPH of University of Colorado Denver- Denver, CO; Alaina Carr BA of University of Colorado Denver- Denver, CO; Jean S. Kutner MD, M.S.P.H. of Hackensack University Medical Center, Department of Biomedical Research, Cancer Prevention and Control, John Theurer Cancer Center; and Mark L. Laudenslager PhD of VA Eastern Colorado Healthcare System, Golden, CO.

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