Seed Funds Awarded For Financial Toxicity Study

May 1, 2018
By: Julie Poucher Harbin, Writer, DCI

The PaRTNer study team: Co-principal investigator David Brizel, MD; study coordinator Bijal Shah, MS; principal investigator Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD, and Fumiko Chino, MD Duke Cancer Institute radiation oncologists Yvonne Mowery, MD, PhD; David Brizel, MD; and Fumiko Chino, MD; have been granted $50,971 in seed funding by the Radiation Oncology Institute (ROI) (affiliated with the American Society for Radiation Oncology) for their forthcoming study evaluating financial toxicity in head and neck cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy.

These patients, according to the study team, represent an at-risk population for both high symptom burden and high out-of-pocket costs. Radiation therapy for these cancers is highly specialized, and the cost of associated travel, lodging costs and supportive care medications can be prohibitive. In addition, patients often cannot work part-time or full-time during the treatment period, resulting in lost wages.

The team’s 14-month “PaRTNer” project — a single institution, survey-based pilot study — will examine how financial toxicity affects head and neck cancer patients’ symptom burden, the optimal role of oncologists and supporting staff in addressing financial toxicity, and the most impactful intervention(s) to identify and reduce financial toxicity. The researchers expect to start enrolling patients in the study within the next two months.

More than $200,000 in “Innovative Projects in Radiation Oncology” grants were awarded by ROI to five teams with the most innovative proposals for research to heighten the critical role of radiation therapy in the treatment of cancer. Proposals that addressed financial toxicity and cost; access to treatment and support services; awareness, education and marketing; and hypo-fractionation and SBRT were given priority consideration.

Mowery, whose research interests include head and neck cancer, combined radiation therapy and immunotherapy, soft tissue sarcoma, and metabolic imaging of cancer, is the principal investigator on the project. Brizel, who co-directs the Duke Cancer Institute Head & Neck Cancer Program, is the co-principal investigator on the PaRTNer project. Chino, mentored by Mowery and Brizel, is the primary grantee on the project. She's a fourth year radiation oncology resident whose research is focused on the financial toxicity of cancer care, cost effectiveness, radiation utilization rates and patient reported outcomes. Bijal Shah, MS, a member of the Radiation Oncology Clinical Research team, is the primary coordinator for the study.

“Grant support is essential for young investigators at the beginning of their careers like myself and receiving this award as a resident is truly an honor,” said Chino. “I'm grateful for the commitment of the Radiation Oncology Institute to actively supporting research focused on how to improve the patient experience. Addressing financial toxicity has the potential to not only decrease stress and enhance quality of life, but -in the long run- actually improve cancer outcomes like disease control and survival.”