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 sit on the Research Committee for Maggie’s, a charitable organisation providing cancer support across the UK and until recently, I chaired the International Psycho-Oncology Society (IPOS) Research Committee. I’m an Editorial Board Member for the European Journal of Cancer Care, Associate Editor for the Journal of Psychosocial Oncology Research and Practice, and I sit on the North West Cancer Research Funding Advisory Group. I’ve received over £1.35 million of competitive grants for my research and knowledge and exchange actives, including over £950,000 of grants in the past five year period. 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 people affected by cancer: 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 are now well underway with a longitudinal cohort 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 collaborating with Dr Pandora Patterson and colleagues at CanTeen in Australia to evaluate three of their support programmes for young people affected by cancer: TRUCE, an ACT-based intervention for children affected by a parent’s cancer diagnosis; and PYGO and SPACE for young people coping with the impact of their own 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, has undertaken a series of linked studies to establish what kind of interventions are needed, and adapting the Finding My Way online intervention for this patient group. We will shortly begin a full clinical trial of our adapted intervention: Finding My Way Advanced. 

Online cognitive behavioural therapy for UK cancer survivors: Our of our most recent grant awards is to adapt the Finding My Way online intervention for cancer survivors in the UK. This project launched in Spring 2020 and recruitment is currently underway for our replication clinical trial. This study will complete in 2023.

Cancer treatment and survivorship research studies

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.

Phase I trial work on immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients: Immunotherapy is an exciting new treatment development for cancer, but there is still so much to learn about who may benefit from it, and how it can be delivered most effectively. I’m currently collaborating on some work in this area with Dr David Pinato at Imperial College London, to ensure that patient report outcomes are considered in these important treatment trials.

Fear of Recurrence in people who have been diagnosed with sarcoma: Sarcoma is a type of cancer that is quite rare and often difficult to diagnose and treat because it doesn’t have many obvious symptoms in the early stage of illness. Some types of sarcoma have a high-risk of recurrent illness. In this study, led by Dr Rachel Taylor at University College London, we are trying to find out more about the psychological impact of having completed treatment for sarcoma so that we can understand how this patient group can be better supported. 

Predictors of psychological growth in cancer survivors: Whilst some cancer survivors struggle with psychological distress, others report that their lives have change in positive ways; we sometimes call this benefit finding or psychological growth. We are currently doing some pilot work to understand the role of psychological resilience and self-compassion in predicting who is more likely to report this kind of psychological growth.

Other contextual behavioural science studies

Measuring change in suicide predictors over time: Suicide remains one of the biggest challenges in mental health research. In this programme of work, led by Rosina Pendrous, we are trying to establish which psychological factors best predictor suicidality over time, in the hope that this will tell us how to better support those at risk in the future.

Anti-values clarification exercises: Many of the intervention tools that we use in coaching and clinical psychology interventions, aim to help people to better understand what gives meaning and value into their lives. But some of our conventional ways of doing this may not work for those who are high in hopelessness or negative mood. This work, being led by Dr Kevin Hochard, aims to develop and test and alternative way of clarification client values that might be more effective.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy for Occupational Stress: Stress is one of the primary causes of work-related absence and it’s not surprising; work is such a large part of our life that if things aren’t going well, that can have a tremendous impact on our psychological and physical wellbeing. We are currently investigating the effectiveness of ACT-based stress management interventions for both oncology nurses (as part of William Kent‘s PhD) and staff working in palliative care settings (Led by Dr Anne Finucane at University of Edinburgh). 


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.