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$2.25 million to improve lives of prostate cancer survivors

New research grant to help support prostate cancer survivorship.
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Australian men and families impacted by prostate cancer are set to benefit from federal funding for a world-first trial of a new survivorship care model.

Professor Jeff Dunn AO was awarded a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership grant of $1.13 million, which will be matched by local, national and international health partners as part of a total injection of $2.25 million into the research.

The trial will test the clinical and cost effectiveness of nurse-led survivorship care for improving the health and well-being of men on hormone therapy for prostate cancer.

Professor Dunn, a behavioural scientist at the University of Southern Queensland and chief executive of Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia (PCFA), said the four-year project would provide hope to thousands of men and their families impacted by prostate cancer.

“Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Australian men, with more than 230,000 men alive today after a diagnosis,” Professor Dunn said.

“While survival rates have never been better, we now have more men diagnosed with prostate cancer living much longer, therefore the focus on survivorship care after treatment has never been more important.”

Hormone therapy is widely used in the treatment of prostate cancer, with between 30-50 per cent of all men diagnosed with the disease undergoing the treatment.

Although it slows disease progression and increases survival, hormone therapy can cause loss of muscle mass and bone density, sexual dysfunction, and other chronic health conditions including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

“In addition to the substantial physical side effects, the supportive care needs of men on hormone therapy are not adequately addressed or treated right now, with many men experiencing unmet informational, psychological, and sexual help needs,” Professor Dunn said.

“Of concern, compared to men with prostate cancer who are not on hormone therapy, these men are more likely to develop mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and are at a higher risk of suicide.

“PCFA’s Prostate Cancer Specialist Nursing Service has around 100 nurses nationwide who help those affected by prostate cancer at all stages.

“This funding will allow us to establish whether we can develop even more tailored care for men on hormone therapy, who face challenges unlike those experienced by other men with prostate cancer.

“The project will vastly improve our understanding of how specialised support can improve quality of life and survivorship outcomes for men on hormone therapy, who have had their needs ignored for too long.”

More than 200 men will participate in the trial, which will use an evidence-based survivorship framework, developed by the University of Southern Queensland, in collaboration with the PCFA and NHMRC’s Centre of Research Excellence in Prostate Cancer Survivorship.

It will be delivered by specially-trained PCFA nurses through four telehealth sessions over a four-week period, with a booster session a month later.

The sessions will cover distress management strategies, decision support, treatment education with self-management and skills training for symptom effects, and communicating with health professionals.

“If we prove this works, which we believe it will, our aim is to have this service made available to every man diagnosed with prostate cancer on hormone therapy,” Professor Dunn said.

“We will be able to achieve this goal by working with our wide range of high-quality partners to integrate this service into mainstream practice.”

NHMRC’s Partnership Project scheme supports translation of research through effective integration of research evidence into health policy and service delivery.

The University of Southern Queensland has eight cancer research, consumer and clinical groups supporting the project: Prostate Cancer Foundation of Australia, Cancer Council Queensland, Australian Prostate Centre, Ipswich West Moreton Hospital Health Service, GenesisCare, Icon Group, Healthy Male and the Union for International Cancer Control.

The project also involves clinician, nurse and health economics researchers from Edith Cowan University, Griffith University, Cancer Council NSW, University of Queensland, Brisbane Urology Clinic, Westmead Hospital and University of Technology Sydney.

man sitting and smiling
Professor Jeff Dunn AO was awarded a $1.13 million NHMRC grant to trial a new survivorship care model for men on hormone therapy for prostate cancer.