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UCI Health to develop ovarian cancer app

Researcher wins $1.9-million award for a web application to help newly diagnosed patients understand their treatment options

August 15, 2013

Armed with a $1.9-million grant, UCI Health School of Medicine researchers will develop and test a tablet-computer application to help newly diagnosed ovarian cancer patients take an active role in their treatment decision-making.

Lari B. Wenzel, PhD, professor of medicine and public health, will lead the effort, which aims to help patients learn about the disease and better understand the treatment approaches, especially the trade-offs between chemotherapy options.

Women with advanced ovarian cancer usually have two options: intraperitoneal (IP)-intravenous (IV) chemotherapy versus IV-only chemotherapy delivery.

Although survival benefits are significantly greater with IP therapy, it may have more toxic effects than IV-only treatment. The tradeoffs associated with short-term reduced quality of life and longer survival, compared to potentially better quality of life short-term with possible compromised survival pose decision-making challenges for patients and providers. 

Empowering patients

Having access to an application that can provide details about these therapies is expected to improve patients’ ability to make informed decisions and participate in both the decision-making process and the care they receive.

“This new and unique decision aid will allow patients to assimilate information and identify trade-offs about the impact of IP-IV therapy versus IV-only therapy on their quality of life and survival," Wenzel said, "based on their own personal preferences and clinical characteristics, described in terms that are meaningful to them."

Wenzel will lead the project with Dana B. Mukamel, PhD, a professor of medicine. Mukamel’s expertise in preference assessment and decision-making complements Wenzel’s research group’s expertise in ovarian cancer survivorship. 

To test the app and ensure that it meets patients’ needs, they will be working with Dr. Robert Bristow, director of the UCI Health Ovarian Cancer Center, and Kathryn Osann, PhD, an adjunct professor of medicine, as well as with clinicians from several universities and cancer centers across the country, and ovarian cancer stakeholder groups — such as the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, In My Sister’s Care and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Informed decision-making

The grant comes from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to fund research that provides patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better informed healthcare decisions.

The UC Irvine study was selected after a highly competitive review process, during in which scientists, patients, caregivers and other stakeholders evaluated more than 400 applications requesting research funds. 

“We are excited about this project and grateful to PCORI for giving us the opportunity to work toward improving ovarian cancer patient centered care,” Wenzel said.

UCI Health comprises the clinical, medical education and research enterprises of the University of California, Irvine. Patients can access UCI Health at physician offices throughout Orange County and at its main campus, UC Irvine Medical Center in Orange, Calif., a 412-bed acute care hospital that provides tertiary and quaternary care, ambulatory and specialty medical clinics, behavioral health and rehabilitation. U.S. News & World Report has listed it among America’s Best Hospitals for 12 consecutive years. UC Irvine Medical Center features Orange County’s only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, high-risk perinatal/neonatal program, Level I trauma center and Level II pediatric trauma center, and is the primary teaching hospital for UCI Health School of Medicine. UCI Health serves a region of more than 3 million people in Orange County, west Riverside County and southeast Los Angeles County.

About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UC Irvine is a top-ranked university dedicated to research, scholarship and community service. Led by Chancellor Michael Drake since 2005, UC Irvine is among the most dynamic campuses in the University of California system, with more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students, 1,100 faculty and 9,400 staff. Orange County’s second-largest employer, UC Irvine contributes an annual economic impact of $4.3 billion. For more UC Irvine news, visit news.uci.edu.