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Fatigue and pain in lung and renal cell cancer patients [Seed Funding]

Patients with cancer often experience fatigue and pain during and after cancer treatment. If these symptoms are detected early, health care providers could prevent them from getting worse. In this pilot study, Dr. Mols, Dr. van Deun, and Prof. dr. van der Lee from Tilburg University, and Dr. de Rooij and Dr. van den Hurk from the Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation (IKNL) will investigate whether intensive monitoring of patients’ symptoms using a smartphone app could support personalized cancer care. This project is part of the Personalized Prevention and Care theme.

Fatigue and pain are frequently reported by cancer survivors and significantly impact their short- and long-term quality of life, but also influences medication adherence and thereby clinical outcomes like survival. If symptoms are detected timely, early intervention by health care providers could prevent symptoms from getting worse. Intensive monitoring of symptoms early in the cancer trajectory could enhance personalized cancer care.

The aim of this pilot study is to implement experience sampling methods (ESM) in an existing symptom monitoring app currently used by patients with lung cancer (13+ hospitals, and renal cancer (20+ hospitals, during the treatment phase. The app is incorporated in the PROFILES registry of Tilburg University and IKNL (

Patients with high scores of fatigue or pain during the treatment phase will be asked to participate in ESM. Following ESM, the patient receives a report that can be shared with their health care providers. Through these feedback reports based on novel applications of network models, patients and health care providers will gain detailed insights into patterns of severity of symptoms throughout the day, and factors associated with symptom severity. If the pilot is successful, the project will be rolled out to other symptoms and cancer types within PROFILES.

Patient-reported symptom monitoring using an app adds to personalized prevention and care in 3 steps: 1) Patients are selected for participation in ESM based on their individual symptom severity baseline scores, 2) Patients and health care providers will gain detailed insights into the patients’ individual patterns of symptom severity and context-factors, 3) health care providers can provide personalized management of symptoms focusing on specific characteristics and/or context factors revealed by ESM.

This project is a collaboration between the department of Medical and Clinical Psychology (MCP) and the department of Methodology and Statistics (MTO), combining the collection of ESM data in a medical population within PROFILES (Mols, van den Hurk; de Rooij) and applying novel statistical analyses techniques network models (Van Deun). MTO will in turn use the ESM data for novel applications of network models. We collaborate with the REFINE project (van der Lee) that includes ESM to screen cancer patients during follow-up for psychological intervention. Prof. van der Lee will provide guidance in visualizing patterns of symptom severity, mood and context-factors using network models in a feedback report for patients and HCPs.


Cross-cutting themes

The Herbert Simon Research Institute for Health, Well-being, and Adaptiveness is a research center devoted to carrying out excellent, state of the art research in order to contribute to healthy and resilient people. We have selected three themes, which involve the collaboration between various Departments  and address actual themes in need of both fundamental and applied research.