Dr. Cristiane Bergerot received a 2021 Focus Award: Psychosocial for her project “Redefining Quality of Life Assessments in Metastatic Renal Cell Carcinoma.” Bergerot is based at the Instituto Unity de Ensino e Pesquisa, Centro De Cancer de Brasilia in Brazil.
We spoke with Bergerot about her work and what it could mean for people with kidney cancer.
What is psycho-oncology and how can kidney cancer researchers and patients benefit from what this field has to offer?
This subspecialty addresses the two major psychological dimensions of cancer: the psychological responses of patients to cancer at all stages of the disease, and that of their families and caretakers; and the psychological, behavioral and social factors that may influence the disease process.
This subspecialty has been recognized as a critical component of cancer care. A great proportion of patients with cancer will suffer social, emotional and psychological distress as a result of cancer diagnosis and treatment. Psychosocial interventions have proven efficacious for helping patients and families to better cope with this diagnosis and treatment.
Why do current quality of life assessment tools fall short when it comes to kidney cancer? What’s the benefit of a whole new assessment tool?
There remains considerable disagreement concerning the relevance of generic questions in the context of kidney cancer, the sensitivity of the current measures at different disease stages or even phases of the disease, the specific measure that should be used, and whether cancer-specific measures are suitably tailored to patients with metastatic kidney cancer. Furthermore, current measures are agnostic to disease stage, but it is obvious that different concerns are faced by patients with localized disease as opposed to those with metastatic disease. In addition, many of the cancer-related QOL measures may not be appropriate for the assessment of patients with metastatic kidney cancer. These questionnaires were tested and validated among patients receiving outdated therapeutic regiments and thus may include items that address acute and treatment-related symptoms that are typically no longer relevant for patients with metastatic kidney cancer, as well as those that assess side effects of treatments rarely used in this setting, while also failing to adequately address physical and psychosocial health problems particularly relevant to patients with metastatic kidney cancer in the era of treatment. Finally, existing measures have often been based on a limited number of patients who reside in the US, thus limiting their generalizability and cultural sensitivity, while others possess limited information regarding their psychometric properties, or they have been based on a limited number of patients.
What would surprise others about the things kidney cancer patients say bother them the most and least about having kidney cancer, in your experience?
I would say that we would like to find a standard way to better communicate their unmet needs and to better measure their QOL. We aim to develop an mRCC-specific HRQoL measurement that can be used to fain better understanding of the unique issues these patients experience.
How can patients best communicate their needs to a care team when they’re not directly related to treatment? Is this something a new quality of life tool could address?
The use of a standard measure may facilitate the way patients communicate their unmet needs to the health care team.
Yes, it is. We hope that this measure can work as an important tool for patients, caregivers and health care providers.
What motivates you?
to bettering the lives of patients with kidney cancer through obtaining a detailed understanding of their quality of life and addressing their quality of life through novel, targeted interventions.