A Palliative Care Intervention for Socioeconomically Disadvantaged Patients Diagnosed with Cancer

"I am learning how to analyze, properly use and interpret SPSS outputs, which will greatly help me on my own thesis project. Additionally, I am learning how to properly write a paper scientifically but also to criticize scientific writing. Just as important as writing papers is verifying and confirming that the results of others were presented accurately."


Supervising Faculty:

Jennifer Steel



Jennifer Steel
3459 Fifth Avenue
Kaufman Building Suite 601
(412) 692-2041

Area of Research:  Health Psychology/Medicine/Public Health


Description of Research:

According to the NIH State-of-the-Science consensus statement (17), the three most frequently reported and undertreated cancer-related symptoms are pain, fatigue, and depression.  Cognitive-behavioral interventions have been shown to be effective in the treatment of these symptoms using traditional delivery strategies (face to face and telephone) by our team as well as others.  Assessment and treatment of cancer-related symptoms to the people receiving cancer treatment at our tertiary Liver Cancer Center is challenging.  People who are treated for unresectable HCC at our Center often travel across the country for evaluation and treatment.  Furthermore, treatment of these patients is infrequent (every 8 weeks) and the visits brief (23 hour hospitalization).  Using traditional delivery strategies, we have demonstrated that with brief cognitive behavioral interventions (3 face to face and 2 telephone sessions), that we can reduce symptoms of pain, fatigue, and depression and improve some domains of health related quality of life (HRQL).  To facilitate the assessment and treatment of symptoms, we are proposing the use of new technologies which include computer-mediated strategies.  We have begun to develop these computer-mediated strategies and will be prepared to test the feasibility of this Comprehensive Electronic Cancer Support System (CECSS) as a part of this academic Career Development Award.  The CECSS is expected to facilitate our ability to assess and treat cancer-related symptoms, and as a result, improve HRQL for people diagnosed with HCC.  Participants will be randomly assigned to receive either the intervention arm or standard of care arm of the study.  Efficacy of the intervention will be based on patient-reported outcomes such as pain, fatigue, depression, anxiety, quality of life, and satisfaction with health care.  It is expected that the participants randomly assigned to the intervention arm of the study will have greater reduction in cancer-related symptoms (i.e., pain, fatigue, depression, and anxiety) and improvements in HRQL and satisfaction with their health care, when compared to the standard of care arm of the study at follow-up.


Duties of Students:

The data collection is completed for this study but if students were interested in writing papers from this data set for a publication or honors thesis this data would be available to them.  The data includes a wide range of patient and caregiver psychosocial outcomes (e.g., depression, expressed emotion, pain, stress) at multiple time points.  We also have biological and disease-related data for those students interested in such analyses and topics for their paper.  


Additional Requirements:

  • Grade point average of 3.0 or higher for directed research
  • A psychology GPA of 3.5 or higher for honors research
  • At least 12 credits in Psychology
  • Persons who are dependable, responsible, and willing to learn


Terms offered: fall, spring and summer


Number of Students: varies