As much as I love all of the many and varied roles involved in being an academic scientist, research is my passion and I’m lucky to be able to spend so much of my time doing it. In addition to leading an active research programme at the University of Chester, I am a member of the UK National Cancer Research Institute Psychosocial Oncology and Survivorship ‘Interventions’ subgroup; I sit on the Research Committee for Maggie’s, a charitable organisation providing cancer support across the UK; and I chair the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) Research Committee. I’ve received over £400,000 of competitive research funding in the last decade. I’m providing here an overview of some my current projects, but you can see a list of my published papers here, find out more about my PhD students’ projects here, or download my full CV here.
Psychosocial oncology intervention studies
Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for cancer survivors: My team and I are working on a number of linked projects exploring how ACT can help to meet the psychological needs of people affected by cancer. We have just launched a new study in collaboration with colleagues in Canada and Australia in which we’ll ask cancer survivors to complete questionnaires every three months for two years after the end of treatment to assess how we can best construct an ACT-based intervention to maximise psychological wellbeing. I’m also collaborating with Dr Pandora Patterson colleagues at CanTeen in Australia to evaluate online delivery of TRUCE, their ACT-based intervention for children affected by a parent’s cancer diagnosis.
Psychological interventions for women with advanced breast cancer: Many of my published papers have discussed the need for effective psychological interventions for women affected by breast cancer, however we know very little about we can effectively intervene to reduce psychological problems in women with advanced (or metastatic) breast cancer. This programme of work, led by Dr Lisa Beatty at Flinders University, Australia, will undertake a series of linked pilot studies to establish what kind of intervention we should be focussing our attention on.
Psychological therapy of for people affected by cancer or palliative illness: I’m leading this study on behalf of the IPOS Research Committee. Psychology has provided us with a great many types of intervention framework that may improve psychological wellbeing. What we really want to know in this study is which of those frameworks are currently being used and are thought to be most effective in cancer and palliative care settings. We are going to be recruiting psychologists working with this patient group from the UK, Cancer, Australia, USA, Hong Kong, China, Japan and Spain.
Helping head and neck cancer survivors who have swallowing difficulties (The SiP study): This study is being led by Prof Mary Wells and her team at the University of Stirling, and has been funded by the Scottish Government Chief Scientist Office. We know that treatment for head and neck cancer can have considerable consequences on swallowing function, which in turn has big impact on quality of life. In this study, we are hoping to develop a novel intervention to help this group to resume better swallowing function.
Contextual behavioural science laboratory studies
Testing the generalisation of brief mindfulness instructions in the context of physical pain: Mindfulness has become one of the fastest growing interventions for a range of different psychological and physical problems. The evidence tells us that it can be effective in managing, for example, physical pain. Led by Dr Lee Hulbert-Williams, this study aims to experimentally test manipulations in mindfulness instructions to see which is most effective for managing exposure to physical pain.
Combinatorial Entailment in Relational Frame Theory: Combinatorial entailed is one of three fundamental features of Relational Frame Theory, a behavioural analytic account of language and symbolic learning. Dr Lee Hulbert-Williams is leading this study which will test speed of combinatorial entailment using a novel task that we have developed for delivery using PsychoPy software.
Cancer survivorship research studies
Experiences of taking hormone therapy following treatment for breast cancer: Hormone therapies, such as tamoxifen, are prescribed for some women who have been treated for breast cancer. These treatments can have problematic side effects, and this is thought to contribute to poor medication adherence. This study, led by Prof Eila Watson at Oxford Brookes University, is investigating breast cancer survivors’ experiences of taking these therapies and what some of the barriers to adherence might be.
Preferences for psychological and supportive care in haematological cancer: We know that people diagnosed with, and treated for, haematological cancers have particularly high levels of distress and unmet supportive care needs. But they also access psychological and supportive care services less frequently. This study, led by Dr Brooke Swash aims to understand why this is, and how these patients would like their needs to be better met.
Developing the Psychological Impact of Cancer Scale: Many psychometric tools have been developed to assess how well people are adjusting to a cancer diagnosis. Though great research tools, these are often too long or insensitive to be used in clinical settings. We are attempting to develop a brief measure that is useful in both research and clinical assessments.
If you’d like to talk to me about research collaboration, or if you are in a position to donate money to our research programme, please use the contact page to get in touch with me.