Posted on Jan 3, 2020

USF College of Nursing Receives $2.8 million National Cancer Institute Grant

USF College of Nursing Receives $2.8 million National Cancer Institute Grant

The National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute has awarded $2.8 million to Hsiao-Lan Wang, PhD, RN, CMSRN, ACSM EP-C, FAAN, at the University of South Florida College of Nursing to study whether using a popular fitness gaming system could minimize the fatigue and pain that many head and neck cancer patients face after treatment.

Dr. Wang, the principal investigator, will lead a group of College of Nursing researchers in a five-year study examining whether the personalized home-based exercise intervention named PAfitME™, which utilizes consoles such as the Wii Fit, Switch, or Xbox Kinect, will ease the symptoms caused by cancer therapy, promote physical activity, and ultimately lead to patients continuing to exercise.

Research data shows that after cancer treatment, 92 percent of head and neck cancer patients suffer from fatigue and 73 percent have pain.

“We expect to make a major advancement in the field of symptom self-management for fatigue and pain by coupling widely available gaming technology with a behaviorally personalized, telehealth physical activity intervention for the debilitating fatigue and pain experienced by head and neck cancer patients and, perhaps, many individuals with similar physical symptoms,” said Dr. Wang.

“PAfitME™ can be easily translated to clinical practice because this intervention provides a solution to overcome the gaming challenges due to varieties of technology features/advances/obsolescence. For head and neck patients, PAfitME™ is specifically designed for helping them to return to normal life much faster,” she said.

In a randomized clinical trial, Dr. Wang and her team will recruit 150 head and neck cancer patients who have completed their radiation or chemotherapy within 30 days and who report moderate to severe fatigue and pain.

In the study, half of the patients will undergo a personalized fitness exergaming program using one of the popular consoles, but also includes a mix of FaceTime calls and home visits. The remaining 75 patients will receive standardized educational materials on cancer survivorship and the gaming equipment, but without the personalized program.

The study, titled “A Motion Exergaming Approach to Promote Self-Managing Fatigue and Pain after Head and Neck Cancer Treatment” will monitor each participant’s progress during weekly coaching sessions and review the personalized exergaming exercises.

Researchers will primarily assess each participant’s fatigue and musculoskeletal pain at the beginning and at the end of the six-week intervention. The study will also measure the change in a participant’s grip strength, upper extremity range of motion, lower extremity flexibility, as well as other timed physical assessments.

Dr. Wang, an associate professor at the College of Nursing, is a nurse researcher who specializes in pairing exercise physiology with cancer symptom self-management. She began developing PAfitME™ when she was a post-doctoral fellow training in behavioral nursing research at Indiana University. 

The study’s co-investigators include the College of Nursing’s associate professor Harleah Buck, PhD, RN, FPCN, FAAN; professors Barbara Smith, PhD, RN, FACSM, FAAN, and Laura Szalacha, EdD; University of Michigan School of Nursing professor Ellen Smith, PhD; and Moffitt Cancer Center associate member Kristine Donovan, PhD, MBA.

Dr. Tapan Padhya, a professor in the USF Health Department of Otolaryngology head and neck surgery, will be a collaborator in the study.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing