A collaborative network between the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is funding its first two pilot projects.
The Emotion Well-being and Economic Burden Research Network (EMOT-ECON), co-led by Michelle Martin, PhD, professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC, and Maria Pisu, PhD, professor in the Division of Preventive Medicine at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, supports research on the connection between economic burden of disease and patient emotional well-being. Both of the newly funded EMOT-ECON pilot projects will examine the patient-level impact of cancer care costs, which has become a major complication of treatment in the United States.
Studies in the past decade have shown the clinical relevance of financial distress stemming from cancer care as equivalent to physical and psychological distress. The financial burden caused by medical treatment can drive patients to forgo treatments or opt for less-costly treatments, damaging their ability to recover from their illness.
Financial toxicity or burden are terms used to describe these negative impacts caused by medical expenses. The EMOT-ECON-awarded projects both aim to provide a new understanding of the emotional impact of financial toxicity, and to develop strategies to reduce it.
The first awardee is Patricia Roberson, assistant professor in the College of Nursing, University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Her project, “Financial toxicity and the emotional well-being of breast cancer patients and their families,” examines the economic burden of health care as a primary driver of Appalachian health disparities. Dr. Roberson is leading a multidisciplinary team to collect pilot data on this high-risk population. She aims to develop a full-powered prospective study to identify breast cancer patients and families at greatest risk for economic and emotional hardship caused by treatment cost and determine the best future interventions to reduce these negative impacts.
The second awardee is Salene Jones, PhD, assistant professor in the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR) at Fred Hutchison Cancer Center. Her project, “Assessing Psychological Financial Burden in Cancer,” examines several parts of financial hardship caused by cancer care costs. Her aim is to measure all parts of this financial hardship and to develop data-use guidelines for clinicians to incorporate in cancer care.
“I am excited to officially launch our pilot project program with two studies that will advance our understanding of how the financial burden of having cancer affects one’s emotional well-being,” said Dr. Martin, who also co-directs the Tennessee Clinical and Translational Science Institute at UTHSC. “I look forward to working with Drs. Roberson and Jones to build upon these pilot studies in preparation for larger project awards from the National Institutes of Health.”
“The lines of research started by Drs. Roberson and Jones will lead to exciting advances to what we know about financial toxicity in cancer, and point us in the right direction to understand how this toxicity impacts not only patients but also their families, how it impacts patients already economically disadvantaged, and how this impact can be ultimately mitigated,” Dr. Pisu said.