Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Assistant Professor Catherine Benedict, PhD, has been awarded a five-year, $693,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and test a digital health platform to help young female cancer survivors evaluate their options for having children, make decisions and plan for the future. The new tool being created by Dr. Benedict and her team in the Center for Health Innovations and Outcomes Research has the potential to be a much-needed aid for the more than 400,000 young adult female cancer survivors currently living in the United States, many of whom hope to achieve parenthood someday.
Fertility is a central concern for many young survivors after treatment because many cancer therapies are associated with infertility issues and place women at greater risk for early menopause. In the first phase of her study, Dr. Benedict will work with a development team to build a web-based decision support and planning tool. The tool will be based off of data previously collected by Dr. Benedict, which examined how young women after cancer treatment made decisions regarding future family-building and the kind of support they wish they had when making those decisions.
“My research team found that even if young women make fertility plans before undergoing cancer treatment, they cannot implement their plan because of unexpected costs or being unsure if they will face menopause early,” said Dr. Benedict. “With the NIH’s support to build a web-based tool, patients will have access to information and options so they can tailor their own fertility plan.”
The second phase of Dr. Benedict’s study will allow female cancer survivors to use the tool in helping them make fertility decisions. Participants will then provide feedback and complete surveys to determine if the tool was helpful and whether it led to improved decision-making and lowered distress during the process. If the tool is found to be effective in supporting women through this process, larger clinical trials could follow and the tool could one day become a regular part of cancer care.
“Dr. Benedict’s study is a great example showcasing how Feinstein Institute researchers can harness technology to improve the lives of patients,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute. “Her decision-making tool will assist patients and caregivers in making difficult medical decisions.”