Pan-European project to evaluate the effectiveness of support interventions for people with cancer and their caregivers

University College Dublin (UCD) researchers are partnering in a new, pan-European and multidisciplinary research project to evaluate which psychosocial and educational interventions are most effective in supporting people with advanced cancer and their family caregivers. The project called DIAdic, involves experts from nine (9) research institutions in Belgium, Denmark, Italy, the Netherlands, the UK and Ireland, and has received €4 million in funding, over 5-years, through Horizon 2020, the EU Research and Innovation programme. Around 4 million people in the EU are diagnosed with cancer every year and a diagnosis of advanced cancer has significant psychological and social consequences not only for the individual with the disease but also for family caregivers.

Good psychosocial and educational support for the patient and the caregiver can substantially reduce such effects and help to improve the quality of life for both the patient and caregiver. The overall aim of the DIAdic project is to provide evidence about which psychosocial and educational interventions are most effective. The DIAdIC project will develop and evaluate two different methods of administering the interventions: a face-to-face method provided in the patient-caregiver’s home by a specially trained professional and an eHealth self-administered tool. Both are tailored to the needs of both patients and caregivers. The interventions will address five core areas, outlined below.

Associate Professor Suzanne Guerin, UCD School of Psychology, who is the UCD lead on this project, said, “Our aim is that by the end of this project we will understand more clearly which psychosocial and educational supports are most effective in supporting cancer patients and their caregivers, and that such supports will be available in all European countries.” “With the significant number of new patients being diagnosed with cancer each year, the impact of this project could be considerable,” she added. Professor Joachim Cohen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, the overall DIAdic project co-ordinator said, “A major strength and uniqueness of the DIAdIC project is that it considers the patient-caregiver dyad as a unit and that it supports them using tailored interventions that are complementary to the existing professional care.”

“In a context of limited resources for healthcare there are also limitations to how much professional caregivers, such as physicians and nurses, can provide in terms of psychosocial and educational support. By supporting the patient-caregiver unit in their own home, outside of contact with health care services, we expect to have more impact on improving families’ wellbeing.”

The five core areas which will be addressed in the DIAdic project are; Supporting family involvement in care, Addressing issues of hopelessness, fears and concerns about the disease, Increasing coping effectiveness to deal with stress related to the disease and caregiving, Reducing uncertainty about the disease and treatments and Teaching self-care strategies for symptom management.

Other UCD researchers taking part in the project include; Professor Phil Larkin, Adjunct Professor UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems and University of Lausanne, Associate Professor Michael Connolly, UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems and Our Lady’s Hospice and Care Services and Dr Paul D’Alton, St Vincent’s University Hospital and Adjunct Associate Professor UCD School of Psychology. The research institutions in the DIAdic project, in addition to UCD are; Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Erasmus Universitair Medisch Centrum Rotterdam (Erasmus MC); King’s College London, Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation; Queen’s University Belfast; Universiteit Gent; Azienda Unita Sanitaria Locale di Reggio Emilia; Kobenhavns Universitet and Trinity College Dublin. The European Association of Palliative Care and the European Cancer Patient Coalition are also partnering in the DIAdic project.