Older adults with cancer, caregivers focus of $600,000 research grant
Pictured are, from left, Paula Klemm, Janet Teixeira and Veronica Rempusheski.

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8:12 a.m., Dec. 11, 2009----A team that includes two researchers from the University of Delaware's School of Nursing -- Paula Klemm, professor of nursing, and Veronica Rempusheski, the Jeanne K. Buxbaum Chair of Nursing Science -- has been awarded a two-year, $600,000 grant to conduct research aimed at supporting older adults affected by cancer and their caregivers in Delaware.

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The other members of the team are the Cancer Care Connection (CCC) and the Christiana Care Center for Outcomes Research (CCOR).

Awarded as a Recovery Act supplement to UD's ongoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) IDeA Networks of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) grant, the new funding will support the development of an outreach program to inform the community about resources available to those with cancer, specifically older adults.

The goal of the cancer project is to create a nationwide model for outreach to older adults in communities all over the United States. Ultimately, access to services through organizations like the CCC may reduce health care costs.

“Delaware is currently facing the highest population of elderly we've ever had,” said Rempusheski. “By the year 2030, 30 percent of our population will be age 60 or older, and one-third of those will be 75 or older, with the 85-plus age group the fastest growing population.”

Research and outreach for the project have already begun. Members of the grant team attend community events, health fairs and visit senior centers encouraging older adults with cancer and their caregivers to call CCC if they need help in coping with the financial, emotional, or healthcare issues related to this disease.

“We will be conducting face-to-face outreach at 68 sites in Delaware to speak directly to the elderly and their caregivers to let them know about the services Cancer Care Connection provides,” said Klemm.

The CCC is an agency with a nationwide database of cancer resources. Founded to make getting help after a cancer diagnosis easier, the agency offers a simple telephone service that connects patients to the best treatment centers, hospice services, mental health counselors, food services and even wig manufacturers. The organization is committed to ensuring that persons with cancer have everything they need, including a shoulder to cry on or financial assistance, if necessary.

“A diagnosis of any life-threatening disease is life altering. Cancer is no different. And as with any diagnosis of a potentially deadly disease, people oftentimes don't hear what the doctor says after the announcement of, 'you have cancer,'” said Janet Teixeira, executive director of Cancer Care Connection.

Teixeira also noted that cancer awareness organizations have been established to help those who have been diagnosed to deal with the changes they will experience emotionally, physically and financially. Yet the numbers of organizations that exist are so vast -- and mainly focused on the young -- that it's difficult for a newly diagnosed elderly patient to determine who will be able to help them most. For the elderly in particular, navigating the World Wide Web to find the best treatment options, long-term care or mental health counseling is daunting.

After 18 months of hands-on outreach within the target population, the team will then review the data to determine whether their efforts have been successful. Leading the analysis will be CCOR.

Established in 2005, CCOR conducts research aimed at improving patient care by providing new evidence-based, medical knowledge that could help shape healthcare policy. CCOR investigators evaluate quality of life issues, economic impact and cost-effectiveness. These investigators are actively involved in their own studies while assisting others within the health system in clinical, epidemiologic, translational and outcomes studies.

“Once the outreach portion of the research is complete, we will extract baseline data from the calls received by the CCC to understand the characteristics of the callers,” said Claudine Jurkovitz, director of operations at the Christiana Care Center for Outcomes Research. “From the baseline data, which is anonymous, we will be able to provide a thorough evaluation of the research to assist in implementing this program in other areas.”

“We were gratified that the National Center for Research Resources selected this important project for funding, which brings together expertise from UD, Christiana Care, and Cancer Care Connection, a very effective organization here in the Delaware Technology Park, where we are both located,” said Jeanette Miller, assistant director of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. DBI administers the Delaware INBRE.

For more information about Cancer Care Connection, please call toll-free at 866-266-7008. Delaware residents may call (302) 266-8050.

The Delaware INBRE grant is a five-year, $17.4 million project to build biomedical research capability in Delaware. Funded through the NIH National Center for Research Resources, the Delaware INBRE is led by David S. Weir, director of the Office of Economic Innovation and Partnerships.

Article by Laura Crozier

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