SPUR 2021: The Impact of Immunotherapy on Palliative Care Needs for Patients and their Caregivers


In recent years, immunotherapies and other targeted therapies have transformed the clinical management of a growing range of cancers, including breast, colon, and lung cancers, and melanoma. In the hopes of a “silver bullet” cure for patients’ cancers, patients and family caregivers may avoid or delay thinking about palliative and hospice care approaches, experience emotional distress if treatment fails, and be underprepared for coping with death. The goal of this study is to better understand the end of life, decision making, and bereavement impact associated with immunotherapy receipt among four common cancer diagnoses--colon, lung, melanoma, and breast cancer. We propose to pilot survey measures to conduct cost-effectiveness analyses, assess for changes in socioeconomic status, and identify unmet supportive care needs among N=300 registered cancer caregivers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. This data would allow us to examine the caregiving and bereavement implications involved in immunotherapy care, to promote timely and appropriate end-of-life care in the changing landscape of cancer treatment.

Student Role

The student will be engaged in multiple phases of the research process, including literature reviews, development of the online survey, coordination and attendance at meetings with the larger research team, survey administration and reminders, data checking, and coordinating participant compensation. The student will be engaged in screening a list of caregivers who are registered in the Huntsman Cancer Institute caregiver registry, contacting them by phone or email, and sending out survey links and reminders. The student will be involved in coordinating compensation of participants. Surveys will be administered on a HIPAA-compliant online survey platform (REDCap), which would not affect the ability of the student to engage in research activities at a distance.

Student Learning Outcomes & Benefits

  1. At the end of the program, the student will have gained exposure to the development process of a large online caregiver survey
  2. At the end of the program, the student will gain skills in conducting literature searches with databases such as PubMed, Cinahl, PsycInfo, and Google Scholar
  3. At the end of the program, the student will gain experience in designing an online survey in REDCap and running preliminary reports
  4. At the end of the program, the student will gain experience in contacting potential participants and administering an online survey

Remote Contingency Plan

The College of Nursing is currently operating from a work-from-home policy established by the University. All our work is currently conducted via telecommuting. To plan for a continuation of the work-from-home policy, we will request for a study phone line that the student will be able to make calls with through voice-over IP protocols using business Skype. A study email will be requested to allow for the student to contact participants using an institution email. The student will be trained in CITI and HIPAA training to ensure that participant confidentiality and privacy are maintained in all communications. The College of Nursing has a dedicated IT team that is available Mondays through Fridays to provide technical support and troubleshoot issues. We have Zoom licenses that facilitate online meetings. REDCap is an online platform and can be accessed remotely. A study laptop can be requested if the student needs it provided ample notice to request for equipment. The needed software for the study will be installed on the study laptop.

Djin Tay
Assistant Professor

College of Nursing

As a mentor, I strongly believe that research training is not only about learning the processes involved in conducting methodologically sound research that is driven by the development of knowledge that improves the lives of communities and populations, but also involves being immersed in a culture of research, in which a trainee learns about how interdisciplinary teams function, roles of the research team, and be offered opportunities to work on abstracts and manuscripts to further their personal career goals. As a mentor I endeavor to provide timely and responsive formative and summative feedback to support these learning objectives. I highly support students in the dissemination process and will encourage abstract submission or manuscript development.

The specific mentoring activities I commit to are:

  1. I will meet with the student weekly to monitor and assess needs and progress, set goals, and oversee tasks throughout the course of the program, except for those that fall on breaks or holidays.
  2. I will attend the programmatic meetings required by the SPUR program.
  3. I will train the student in using advance search builders for literature searches, building an evidence table, using EndNote software, and using REDCap. I will also mentor the student to pull data and run basic statistical analyses in REDCap, Excel, and SPSS if needed.
  4. I will ensure the student receives CITI , HIPAA training, and Good Clinical Practice Certification
  5.  will support the student in presenting their work at the SPUR symposium and Undergraduate Research Journal and support any fees associated with these activities, or presentations or manuscripts outside of these two venues related to the project.