New digital tool in Australia helps patients manage fear of cancer recurrence

Australian researchers have developed an online tool to help cancer survivors manage their fear of cancer recurrence.

A research team has made a digital adaptation of a physician-directed treatment called ConquerFear, which was developed by the Oncology Psychology Collaborative Research Group, a clinical trial group. National Cancer Institute of the University of Sydney. Treatments have been found to be effective in reducing fear after cancer treatment.

Dubbed iConquerFear, the digital program offers strategies and techniques for managing the fear of cancer recurrence. It has five modules containing interactive exercises on goal setting, attention training, and mindfulness.


Lead researcher Dr Ben Smith stated: “Getting help to cope with the fear of cancer coming back is a top unmet need for cancer survivors, more than pain. , fatigue and other physical symptoms.

About half of the world’s cancer survivors experience a great fear of cancer recurrence, related to psychological distress, poorer quality of life, and use of care. more health care.

Dr Smith, who is also a senior research fellow at the South West Sydney Clinical School at the University of New South Wales-Sydney School of Medicine & Health, said:[e]Current interventions, while effective, are not accessible to many Australian cancer survivors, particularly those in rural and remote areas”.

Therefore, more scalable digital interventions hold promise to address this gap, according to study co-leader Dr Adeola Bamgboje-Ayodele of the Ingham Institute of Applied Medicine.

While self-guided digital interventions have the potential to meet the mental health needs of cancer survivors, existing digital interventions “or do not use cognitive behavioral strategies.” Methods that we know are particularly effective at alleviating fear are either not designed with a lot of input or feedback from cancer survivors,” notes Dr.

For this reason, the team designed iConquerFear with a focus on user experience, interactive exercises, and personalized feedback to be more accessible and scalable than conventional treatments. now available.

In a recently conducted study of online treatments, most of the 54 cancer survivors experienced a reduction in the severity of their fears during and after the intervention. when a quarter reported clinically significant improvements in their fear reduction.

“We saw strong initial acquisition and engagement and showed promise in reducing fear recurrence – comparable in size to what we’ve seen in face-to-face meetings,” added Dr. Smith.


Before a full-scale rollout in Australia, iConquerFear will first be tested for its effectiveness in a randomized controlled trial conducted in partnership with Ovarian Cancer Australia.

Meanwhile, US-based digital therapy company Blue Note Therapeutics has licensed both the iConquerFear and ConquerFear programs to develop a reciprocal version for the North American market.

“We are open to exploring commercial models with partners that will maximize iConquerFear’s reach and impact in Australia and beyond,” said Dr Smith.

In other news, the Australian government has set aside new funding to continue supporting Ovarian Cancer Australia’s psychosocial telehealth service. This nonprofit provides this support through the Teal Support Program, which has supported more than 400 ovarian cancer patients since its launch in 2019. With the latest amount, the organization can support support 800 more women, especially those from regional areas, with telehealth.

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