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The Center for Health Enhancement Systems Studies is conducting a clinical trail investigating the impact of an innovative technology – the CHESS lung cancer module, "Coping with Lung Cancer - A Network of Support" – that provides information, social support, and skills training to people with non-small cell lung cancer and their families. In addition, this module includes a Clinician Report system that allows patients and their family caregiver to report how they are doing and this information is provided to their clinical team in a summary report. In doing so, this module aims to enhance communication between patients, family members and the oncology clinical team.

The Need

Coping well with advanced cancer is supported by effective, ongoing communication among patients, caregivers and clinicians. To intervene appropriately, clinicians need updates on patient clinical and psychosocial status between scheduled visits. Patients and their caregivers need clinician information and support responding to physical, spiritual, and emotional challenges of advanced cancer. Ineffectiveness in any of these areas compromises patient-caregiver-clinician information exchange, and results in less-than-ideal care. The proposed research will measure and explain whether a computer based support system – CHESS – can facilitate such clinician-patient-caregiver interactions and improve cancer-related outcomes.

Previous studies with breast cancer have demonstrated CHESS is widely accepted and used, improves quality of life and may lead to more efficient use of health services. This grant will evaluate CHESS in the new context of advanced lung cancer and palliative care, and assess whether information shared with the clinical team on the patient's and family caregiver’s needs and health status will help clinicians better support patients with lung cancer and their informal caregivers, adding new understanding of the roles of such technologies.


Recruitment for this trial began in January 2005 and will continue through March 2007. Participants include advanced lung cancer patients and their informal caregivers who are recruited from cancer centers in Madison, WI, Houston, TX, Boston, MA and St. Louis, MO. Each caregiver will be offered a loaned computer and internet access for up to 25 months (those completing the study may keep their computer). They will complete surveys every two months for the duration of the study. If the patient dies during the course of the study, caregivers will be surveyed regarding their bereavement adjustment. Participants will be chosen at random into one of two study conditions: to receive either (a) Usual Care and a computer with Internet access and list of clinician-recommended lung cancer-related websites, or (b) computer with Internet access and access to the CHESS website. Individual training and technical support is provided by CHESS staff though the duration of the trial.

Principal Investigators:
David Gustafson Sr., Ph.D