Positive Psychology Program Shows Promise for Blood Cancer Patients Post-Transplant

National Comprehensive Cancer Network

PLYMOUTH MEETING, PA — New research published in the June 2024 issue of the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (JNCCN) highlights a promising approach to improving the well-being of patients with blood cancers who undergo hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT). The study evaluated the feasibility of a nine-week phone-delivered positive psychology program called Positive Affect for the Transplantation of Hematopoietic Stem Cells Intervention (PATH).

The randomized clinical trial found that PATH is both feasible and well-received. An impressive 91% of patients who received the PATH intervention completed all sessions and reported finding them easy and helpful.

“Having 9 out of 10 people complete all the sessions is great,” said Dr. Hermioni L. Amonoo, lead researcher from Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. She explained that PATH was designed with the unique needs of HSCT survivors in mind. The program’s accessibility allows patients to participate from home, eliminating the need for travel. Weekly exercises can be completed at the patient’s convenience using a manual, making phone sessions brief at just 15-20 minutes each, compared to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy sessions which last much longer.

Dr. Amonoo emphasized that the intervention was tailored to ensure activities were safe for patients recovering from transplants. Unlike other programs, PATH does not include community service exercises that could pose risks to patients with compromised immune systems.

The pilot study, conducted from August 2021 to August 2022, involved 70 adult patients with blood cancers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Patients were divided into two groups, with the PATH intervention beginning about 100 days post-transplant. Participants engaged in weekly exercises focused on gratitude, personal strengths, and finding meaning. The results were promising: 94% of participants completed at least six sessions, and 91% completed all nine. Patient-reported outcomes showed significant improvement immediately after the program and again at week 18.

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Dr. Amonoo advocated for the inclusion of psychosocial resources like PATH in cancer care, emphasizing their potential to enrich patients’ emotional well-being. “Cancer care providers should consider the potential benefits of psychosocial resources and interventions like PATH that focus on enriching positive emotions to bolster their patients’ well-being,” she said.

For more information and to read the full study, visit JNCCN.org. Complimentary access to the study “A Positive Psychology Intervention in Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Survivors (PATH): A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial” is available until September 10, 2024.

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