Compared with standard psychosocial care, a one-on-one skills-based intervention improved psychosocial outcomes in adolescents and young adults with cancer, according to results of a pilot randomized study presented at the Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium.

The novel intervention was associated with improved patient resilience, cancer-specific quality of life, and hope, plus fewer cases of depression, said lead study author Abby R. Rosenberg, MD, director of palliative care and resilience research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

Brief, developmentally-targeted psychosocial interventions are promising for this population of adolescents and young adults with cancer, Dr. Rosenberg said in a press conference at the symposium, which was cosponsored by AAHPM, ASCO, ASTRO, and MASCC.

Adolescents and young adults with cancer tend to have poor psychosocial outcomes, possibly because they have not yet developed skills that would help them manage hardships they encounter as a result of having cancer, according to Dr. Rosenberg.

She and her colleagues previously designed and tested the intervention, called Promoting Resilience in Stress Management (PRISM). The intervention is brief and focuses on helping patients develop skills in stress management, goal setting, positive reframing, and benefit finding.

The clinical evaluation of PRISM presented at the symposium included 100 English-speaking patients aged 12-25 who had new or recently recurrent cancer. They were randomized to the skills-based intervention or standard psychosocial care.

In the PRISM group, the adolescents and young adults participated in four in-person one-on-one training sessions lasting 30-60 minutes, plus a facilitated family meeting. Patients were surveyed at baseline and again at 6 months to measure the impact of the intervention.

A total of 36 patients in the PRISM arm and 38 in the usual-care arm completed the study. Most attrition was due to medical complications or death, the investigators said.

Results showed that, compared with standard psychosocial care, the skills-based intervention was associated with significant improvements in resilience (+2.3; 95% confidence interval, 0.7-4.0), hope (+2.8; 95% CI, 0.5-5.1), quality of life (+6.3; 95% CI, –0.8-13.5), and a trend toward less distress (–1.6; 95% CI –3.3-0.0).

Fewer cases of depression occurred in the PRISM group compared with the standard care group (two versus eight cases), Dr. Rosenberg added.

The psychosocial toll of cancer can be significant, especially in a vulnerable population such as adolescents and young adults, according to Andrew S. Epstein, MD, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York. “The intervention by Rosenberg and her coauthors represents an important beacon of hope for improving the cancer experience for this population,” Dr. Epstein said.


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