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Photographer: Fokke Eenhoorn

Beating cancer-related fatigue with personalised interventions

After diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, many women suffer from cancer-related fatigue. Twenty percent of the patients are still severely fatigued after ten years. Is there a way to reduce cancer-related fatigue? PhD candidate Lian Beenhakker of the University of Twente compared 35 globally existing eHealth interventions aimed at reducing fatigue. Beenhakker’s publication appeared last week in the European Journal of Cancer Care. Lian Beenhakker: “Patients and their doctors can use this overview to find an eHealth intervention that fits patients’ personal preferences. It’s the first time that such an overview has been developed in this way.” 

Cancer-related fatigue is difficult to treat, first of all, because it is underreported by both patients and their healthcare professionals. Next, it is also complicated by the fact that not every intervention for fatigue works for every individual, and people have different preferences. Therefore, it is important to give patients personalised advice, taking into account the patient and her preferences. If a patient follows an intervention that fits her characteristics and preferences, the expectation is that this intervention has a larger effect. With this, more women can receive help in better managing their fatigue symptoms.

eHealth interventions

In their research, the researchers developed an overview of existing eHealth interventions. These were then divided into different categories and compared on aspects sensitive to patients' preferences. These could be the duration or intensity of an intervention, the associated costs, or whether there is contact with a healthcare professional or peers. This comparison showed there is variation between the different interventions. This makes it possible to give personalised treatment recommendations for an intervention that fits the individual patient. For example, some interventions have daily exercises, others have weekly exercises. Also, (the way of) contact with a healthcare professional during the intervention varies between interventions as well as the presence of peer support. This research is the first step towards personalised treatment recommendations. In future research, this overview is used to create a model that will automatically generate these recommendations for cancer-related fatigue based on an individual patient profile.

PARTNR project

This research is part of the project Personalized cAnceR TreatmeNt and caRe (PARTNR), in which Lian Beenhakker works together with Kim Wijlens (PhD candidate) and Dr Annemieke Witteveen (Assistant Professor). In addition to predicting the risk for cancer-related fatigue, the purpose is to develop a platform which patients can use to monitor themselves and receive personalised advice regarding interventions for cancer-related fatigue. This project is a collaboration between different clinical institutes and centres: Ziekenhuisgroep Twente (ZGT), the Helen Dowling Institute (HDI), University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG) and Roessingh rehabilitation centre. Other organisations involved are Roessingh Research & Development (RRD), the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation (IKNL), and the companies Evidencio and Ivido. Two patient representatives from the Breast Cancer Association Netherlands (BVN) are contributing to the project.

This research is supported by KWF Kankerbestrijding and NWO Domain AES, as part of their joint strategic research programme: Technology for Oncology II. The collaboration project is co-funded by the PPP Allowance made available by Health~Holland, Top Sector Life Sciences & Health, to stimulate public-private partnerships.

The research project runs until 2024. Patients currently suffering fatigue symptoms are advised to discuss this with their healthcare professional to receive further assistance in finding a suitable intervention.

For further information, please visit our website (www.utwente.nl/partnr). 

drs. M.M.J. van Hillegersberg - Hofmans (Martine)
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