Professor Peter Hudson awarded National Health and Medical Research grant

A highly esteemed National Health and Medical Research (NHMRC) grant has been awarded to Professor Peter Hudson, Director of St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Centre for Palliative Care, to undertake research to improve end of life care.

Photograph of Prof Peter Hudson

The grant will support the Centre for Palliative Care, in collaboration with The University of Melbourne, to adapt and extend existing overseas research for an Australian context.

The project, FOCUSau, will aim to provide support to patients with advanced cancer and their primary carers and improve their emotional wellbeing and quality of life through an innovative digital intervention program.

“Traditionally, interventions and strategies that aim to improve quality of life have focused on the patient or their carer separately. This project is novel as it will target the patient and their primary support person together,” said Prof Hudson.

“We know that a cancer diagnosis has implications for the whole family unit. When patients are confronted with life threatening disease one of their common stressors is worrying about the wellbeing of their family.”

Previous research has shown that when wellbeing interventions target the patient and carer together it can bring joint benefits.

“By supporting the wellbeing of their primary carer, we can also improve the wellbeing of the patient,” said Prof Hudson.

Adapting the research for an Australian context

Similar intervention programs have been rigorously tested in the US over the past decade and have shown success in supporting patients and their carers to improve emotional wellbeing.

Prof Hudson has also been involved in co-coordinating a European Union funded trial incorporating six countries, aiming to adapt the US interventions for a local context. The European trial is currently in its second year.

Taking the learnings from overseas studies, Prof Hudson and his team will deliver the Australian program remotely via a digital health approach – a point of difference from the international research which has focused on a combination of face to face and remote interventions.

“Through this research we’re testing the effectiveness of digital intervention while concurrently looking at its feasibility and how we can implement it across the board in Australia,” said Prof Hudson.

“If it is shown to be effective upon completion, the intervention can be rolled out nationwide almost immediately, allowing us to systematically improve the quality of life for patients with advanced cancer and their families.”