Med center reps study digital health coaching for cancer survivors

Robin Lally, PhD, and Rachael Schmidt, DNP

Robin Lally, PhD, and Rachael Schmidt, DNP

Colleagues from UNMC and Nebraska Medicine are leading a national collaborative research study to measure the effectiveness of digital health coaching for cancer survivors. 

Mariah Jackson and Gisele Tlusty

Robin Lally, PhD, professor in the UNMC College of Nursing; Rachael Schmidt, DNP, program director for cancer survivorship at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center; Gisele Tlusty, graduate research assistant at the UNMC College of Nursing; and Mariah Jackson, assistant professor of the medical nutrition program in the UNMC College of Allied Health Professions, comprise the Nebraska research study team.

Led by Pack Health/Quest Diagnostics Co., other NCI-designated cancer centers engaged in this research study include MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, UT Health Houston and the University of Florida. All teams are led by nurse scientists, making this study a unique model for PhD/DNP and PhD/MD collaborations. Drs. Lally and Schmidt have been involved since protocol development in 2019.

The study is titled “Comprehensive Outcomes for After Cancer Health (COACH): The Feasibility and impact of an mHealth Augmented Coaching Program for Self-Management in Cancer Survivors Who Have Completed Primary Cancer Therapy.” It explores the feasibility and preliminary outcomes of a digital health coaching intervention for individuals within a year following completion of primary therapy for a cancer diagnosis. It’s one of the first studies to investigate the relationship of digital health coaching and an individual’s health outcomes.

“This study is significant because it provides an opportunity to learn about our own cancer survivors in Nebraska but also access data from five other major cancer centers,” Dr. Lally said. “We are proud at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center to collaborate with other NCI-designated cancer centers to bring our patients the opportunity to participate in research capable of directly impacting their cancer survivorship.”

The Nebraska site is enrolling breast, lung and gastric cancer survivors and, to date, leads the enrollment to the study with more than 70 survivors recruited. Enrollment is anticipated to be completed by the end of this year, with results reported throughout 2024. 

Recently, the Nebraska team led authorship on a collaborative trial-in-progress abstract accepted for poster presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology. The team also presented on the study’s breast cancer survivors at last year’s San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. 

The Nebraska team participated in a call with Catharine Young, PhD, assistant director for cancer moonshot engagement and policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, discussing the COACH Study in which Nebraska cancer survivor Susan Bredthauer also presented on her experiences in the trial. 

Dr. Schmidt said the Nebraska team is set up to succeed because of how each member’s strengths complement the mission of the project.

“Our team demonstrates the impact that clinical-academic partnerships between the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Nebraska Medicine can have on patient outcomes,” Dr. Schmidt said. “The number of cancer survivors continues to rise and being able to offer survivorship trials and give these patients an intervention that can help impact several areas of survivorship care is important to improving quality of life.”

The project is funded, in part, by Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

For more information, email Dr. Schmidt or Dr. Lally.

The research study is IRB# 0825-21-CB.