Skip to main content

Cancer: Activating Technology for Connected Health

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - CATCH (Cancer: Activating Technology for Connected Health)

Reporting period: 2018-09-01 to 2020-08-31

Advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment have been groundbreaking, and we are now considering some cancers as chronic disease rather than fatal illness. This moves the focus in the fight against cancer from sustaining life towards maximizing functional capacity and quality of life. 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 quality of life and preventing secondary recurrence. Furthermore, overall physical activity and health behavioural change is becoming increasingly important in cancer management. However, many barriers to the implementation of active rehabilitation in cancer care exist due to its profound physical and psychological implications. Implementation of solutions that can help patients and clinicians overcome these challenges offers significant benefits to society in that it can enable patients to move beyond cancer and re-establish their role in society, with resultant improvements in quality of life and reduced ongoing health and social care costs.

Technology advances such as AI enabled behaviour change interventions, gamification based on biofeedback, and neuromuscular electrical stimulation can help address some of these barriers, but more must be done before we can effectively marry the technological capability to the unmet clinical need. We need to understand specific challenges and patient journeys associated with cancer care and how we can help patients better leverage psychological tools to engage more effectively 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 maximum impact on quality of care. This can only be done by an interdisciplinary programme of research involving close collaboration between researchers in academic, clinical, and industry settings.

To meet these needs, CATCH proposed a programme of 8 interrelated PhD projects that focused on 3 key pillars of investigation, understanding the needs of patients undergoing rehabilitation, development and evaluation of technology enabled rehabilitation models, and understanding how these technology enabled models of care could be brought to the real world in a sustainable way.

CATCH was framed around 3 Research Work Packages that were associated with these pillars of investigation; ‘Understanding the Problem’, ‘Technology Interventions’, and ‘Sell and Scale’. The objective was to deliver targeted research outputs related to each PhD project, as well to use the overall programme as a means of developing a model for interdisciplinary research at the intersection between ICT, clinical, and commercial sectors. Our goal was to produce a cohort of PhD graduates who will drive future innovation in technology enabled cancer rehabilitation through interdisciplinary understanding and innovation.
All work packages progressed well and met the research objectives that formed CATCH's core research and network collaborations. There were some normal, minor changes to the research work packages, yet none of these adversely affected the outcome of the project or its deliverables.

All research work packages successfully solved their main research related question. Significant achievements were made in relation to enhancing our understanding of the challenges faced in the implementation of cancer rehabilitation and the potential role of behavioural, psychological, and technology supports in addressing these challenges. Three different technology solutions were designed, developed, implemented, and evaluated with patients: the use of personalised recommendations for activity based rehabilitation, the use of real time biofeedback during targeted rehabilitation exercise, and the use of NMES technology in implementation of physical rehabilitation. Advances were also made in the interdisciplinary innovation and business models in the field.

Management ensured that all non-research related work package deliverables and impacts were met and that budgets were adhered to. A “gold standard” model of ESR training was achieved through the collaborative creation of a relative and progressive training programme with events and workshops to meet the evolving needs of the ESRs.

Dissemination progressed well, met its targets, and submitted its final deliverables. The project brand created with an online presence via social media and website was strengthened as CATCH refined its dissemination and exploitation structures through more specific methods as the ERSs increased their academic outputs via conference papers, journal publications, and poster presentations.

New highlights were achieved, including ESR and supervisor involvement in numerous public dissemination activities that targeted the scientific community, patients, and the public and the participation in 3 thematic workshops that were held as part of the IEEE International Symposium in Computer Based Medical Systems (2017, 2019, 2020). Furthermore, the final dissemination conference was incorporated as a special thematic session into a major patient facing conference held by Oncoavanze in Seville in November 2019.
CATCH advanced a model for interdisciplinary collaboration at the interface of ICT, clinical, and commercial fields by focusing on innovation in cancer rehabilitation. CATCH has also demonstrated how different expertise can be brought to bear on developing a greater understanding of challenges faced by patients and clinicians and their life experience and working models, how technology can play a role in enhancing care and empowering stakeholders, and how we can bring resultant solutions to the market in a sustainable fashion. CATCH graduates have developed deep expertise in their own field, while gaining a greater understanding of other fields and how they can work with researchers from other backgrounds to deliver impactful innovation. The programme shaped the ESRs with domain specific, interdisciplinary, and transferrable skills and training for their future careers in the broader Connected Health academic, industry, or healthcare provider settings. The ESRs obtained practical skills in dealing with cancer patients and assessing their needs from a Connected Health perspective via a combination of first-hand experience during research with patients, clinicians, and stakeholders in the Connected Health market. Virtual, face-to-face, and local training further enhanced the ESR’s hands-on experience while their research and academic modules solidified a strong foundation in research management and communication. The mandatory international, intersectoral secondments further complemented their developing research and practical skills and proved an invaluable tool in attaining the skills necessary to work in both industry and academia following the completion of CATCH.

The success of the CATCH programme is best evidenced by the ESRs who have been offered opportunities to further their career development and to continue to engage in research that will have wide reaching, societal impact by advancing knowledge of Connected Health applications and their use towards improving quality of life and by continuing to shift the fight against cancer from sustaining life towards maximizing functional capacity and quality of life.