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TCD researchers funded to stimulate translational impact in cancer research

Trinity College Dublin researchers have secured two new awards from the Irish Cancer Society under the Allied Health Professional (AHP) programme, a scheme which promotes partnerships between health professionals and academics. Clinical-academic partnerships encourage research that is of the highest quality and clinical relevance, whilst expediting the translation of research into practice.
The Irish Cancer Society hope that the funding will help drive clinically relevant and innovative cancer research in Ireland and result in positive patient care outcomes, as strategically outlined in the current National Cancer Strategy and the Irish Cancer Society Strategy.

The successful TCD awardees to benefit from this transformative investment are:

Ms Naomi Algeo, Senior Occupational Therapist at St James’ Hospital (Clinical Lead) and Professor Deirdre Connolly, Discipline of Occupational Therapy, School of Medicine, TCD (Academic Lead)

Project title: “Identifying support needs of adolescents and young adult cancer survivors for successful return to education and/or work”

There is increasing national and international recognition that Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer survivors have difficulty returning to education and work due to ongoing difficulties with their physical, mental, and social health following completion of cancer treatment. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to examine health difficulties impacting on return to education and/or work for AYA cancer survivors and to identify services required to meet the unique support needs of AYA cancer survivors in Ireland.

This research will identify the specific physical, psychological and social health concerns that impact on reintegration into education and work post-diagnosis, and explore age- and situation-appropriate supports required to facilitate successful return to education/work.

Commenting on the award, Naomi said.

2022 saw the launch of the first ever Framework for the Care and Support of AYAs with Cancer in Ireland as well as the announcement of three designated AYA cancer centres in Ireland. Education and employment reintegration for AYAs has also been identified by the NCCP and the Irish Cancer Society as an area that warrants attention, and is an area that Occupational Therapists lead in supporting. This research is therefore timely and well placed to inform the development of new important services for AYAs

Dr Grainne Sheill, Senior Physical Therapist at St James’ Hospital (Clinical Lead), and Professor Juliette Hussey, Professor of Physiotherapy, School of Medicine, TCD (Academic Lead)

Project title: "Head and Neck Cancer Rehabilitation: Identifying and Addressing Patient Needs (The CaRe Study)”

People living with Head and Neck Cancer may experience many unique side effects of their treatment. Treatment, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery, can lead to side-effects such as fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle weakness and shoulder weakness and pain. These side-effects can also limit people’s ability to engage in physical activity and exercise. Further, there is no clear post discharge pathway for patients with Head and Neck Cancer experiencing physical impairments.

The development of supportive rehabilitation for patients in the acute phase post treatment is thus needed. This study will identify the physical rehabilitation needs of patients diagnosed with head and neck cancer in Ireland and this information will be used to highlight the late and long-term effects of cancer treatment in this group. This research will provide a protected research team for the clinical lead to design and explore the acceptability of a dedicated exercise-based rehabilitation programme for this group. This programme may improve the care provided to patients and increase the quality of life of people affected by head and neck cancer.

Commenting on the award for this project, Grainne said.

Cancer Rehabilitation during and after head and neck cancer treatment is vital to maintain quality of life. However, there is a lack of exercise-based rehabilitation programmes available for patients and often many times patients are unaware there are options to assist with their side effects. This is a brilliant opportunity to work with patients and healthcare professionals to design and trial an exercise rehabilitation programme for this group.”

Trinity College Dublin awardees, left to right Prof Juliette Hussey (Academic Lead), Dr Grainne Sheill (Clinical Lead), Ms Naomi Algeo (Clinical Lead) Prof Deirdre Connolly (Academic Lead)