CATCH – offers 8 PhD positions in different institutions to research on connected health for patients with cancer. Advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment have been ground-breaking, and we are now considering some cancers as chronic disease rather than fatal illness. This moves the point of focus in the fight against cancer from sustaining life towards maximizing functional capacity and Quality Of Life (QOL).
A critical element in this shift has been the rise of active rehabilitation in the management of cancer. In the past 10-15 years we have seen the emergence of significant evidence for the clinical effectiveness of active rehabilitation in cancer care, both in maximizing functional capacity and QOL, and preventing secondary recurrence. However, many barriers to implementation of active rehabilitation in cancer care exist due to its profound physical and psychological implications. Furthermore, overall physical activity and health behavioural change is increasingly becoming important in cancer management.
Technology advances such as gamification based on biofeedback, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation, can help address some of these barriers but much must be done before we can effectively marry the technological capability to the unmet clinical need. In particular we need to understand specific challenges and patient journeys associated with cancer care and how we can help patients to leverage psychological tools to better engage in their own care. We then need to optimize technological tools to meet patients’ rehabilitation needs, and finally, to understand how to bring resultant solutions to market where they can have maximal impact on quality of care. This can only be done by a multidisciplinary programme of research involving close collaboration between researchers in academic, clinical and industry settings.
CATCH is a deep collaboration across academic, business and clinical sectors. Students will benefit from inter-sectoral secondments, interdisciplinary communication skills, public engagement and outreach while working on a programme of interrelated core research projects addressing gaps in the knowledge and evidence base for technology enabled cancer rehabilitation mentioned above.
To activate technology in bridging the gap between cancer survivors’ depleted
physical and emotional state, and their ultimate ability to return to a fully
functional societal role through technology-supported physical exercise (see Figure). It is this requirement for input from the academic, clinical and
industrial sectors-that encouraged the CATCH consortium to pursue an EID
structure for this project and associated training programme. 3 sub-objectives form the basis of the research work packages which will constitute this program:
RO1: Understanding the nature of the problem faced from a patient perspective – what is the precise nature of the gap, both physical and psychological, that needs to be bridged for patients of both genders to achieve physical activity (WP1:Understanding the Problem).
RO2: Design and test technology-enabled bridging solutions including:
gamification as a driver of motivation, electrical stimulation as an artificial
exercise support tool, and solutions that focus on monitoring and tracking at
a granular level to offer targeted guidance and feedback tailored to suit patients’ needs (WP2: Technology Interventions).
RO3: Offer routes to market and strategic approaches at both industrial and public actor levels to drive adoption at scale of the proposed solutions and associated care models (WP3: Sell and Scale).