In July 2011, Professor Afaf Girgis was appointed to develop and lead the Psycho-Oncology Research Group, under the umbrella of the Translational Cancer Research Unit, funded by the Cancer Institute NSW.
Cancer is a life-changing diagnosis that will affect one in three men and one in four women living in Australia before the age of 75 years. Both the incidence of and survival from cancer are expected to increase. Australia’s cancer survival rates are amongst the best in the world and it is estimated that there were 655 000 cancer survivors in Australia at the end of 2004. Psycho-oncology is becoming more important as a research area due to the rising prevalence of cancer, both in Australia and worldwide.
The Psycho-Oncology Research Group investigates the psychological, social and behavioural aspects of cancer, from the time of a cancer diagnosis until end of life. This research program is translational in its focus, with its priority research areas informed by the challenges faced by those providing and receiving cancer care; application of the most stringent research methods to develop evidence-based practice; and early engagement with key stakeholders and policy makers to maximise evidence-informed cancer care.
The team has a strong track record in undertaking health services research, as reflected by the award of two Cancer Institute NSW Translational Health Service Research Grants to study the feasibility of an oncology nurse practitioner model of care in a rural cancer setting (2010-2012), and the feasibility of an integrated, patient-centred psychosocial care model for patients with urological and head and neck cancers (2012-2014).
The Psycho-Oncology Group also has an international standing in survivorship research. Recent research on the impact of cancer on caregivers has been widely cited internationally, with one of the key publications awarded Paper of the Year 2013: Health Services and Epidemiological, South Western Sydney Clinical School, UNSW Medicine, UNSW. The group’s particular focus on illness self-management and eHealth strategies is reflected in the award of a 4-year NHMRC grant to develop and trial a self-management coping intervention for couples affected by cancer. In 2013, the team was awarded Cancer Institute NSW funding to develop and implement an integrated e-health platform to support and enable cancer survivors to achieve and maintain improved health and wellbeing and better cancer outcomes. This work is highly translational and is expected to influence the delivery of cancer care in NSW.