—and Moblie Health

Leveraging mHealth and Wireless Sensing to Empower Patients and Family Caregivers in the Safe and Effective Management of Cancer Pain

VIRGINIA LEBARON, Asst. Prof. Nursing (SON), JOHN LACH, Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), LESLIE BLACKHALL, Prof., Medicine – General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine (SOM)

Despite many years of ongoing efforts to improve pain management, pain remains a significant problem with cancer care – patients fear dying in pain and family caregivers fear watching their love ones suffer. Poorly managed cancer pain can negatively affect sleep, treatment adherence, mood and quality of life for both the patient and their caregivers. Medications used to control cancer pain are also at the center of the well-publicized national opioid epidemic, creating uncertainty about when and how to use them. Therefore, it is essential for patients and their caregivers to have the support and tools they need to safely and effectively manage pain at home. 

In this project, collaborators from the UVA School of Nursing, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Division of General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine will use in-home mobile, wireless sensing technology developed at UVA to better understand the behavioral and environmental factors that predict pain in cancer patients and their caregivers’ experience of burden. The study will include patient and family caregivers for input in the design of the solution as well as in the deployment and data collection phases. This project will also promote cross-pollination of ideas among UVA’s Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Engineering by embedding an engineering graduate student in the UVA Cancer Center and a nursing graduate student in a research laboratory in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Using Mobile Technology to Monitor and Treat Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Caregivers of Cancer Patients

PHILLIP CHOW, Asst. Prof. Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences (SOM), MATT GERBER, Asst. Prof. Systems and Information Engineering (SEAS), SHAYNA SHOWALTER, Asst. Prof., Surgery (SOM), WENDY COHN, Assoc. Prof., Public Health Sciences (SOM)
Cancer affects not only patients, but also those who care for them, including relatives, friends, and partners. Remarkably, cancer caregivers have higher levels of depression and anxiety than the patients they care for, yet their distress is less widely recognized and seldom addressed. This project builds on recent evidence that brief interventions delivered by smartphone can help improve depression and anxiety.
Collaborators from the UVA Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, Department of Surgery, Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Systems and Information Engineering have developed smartphone-based methods for monitoring mental distress. In partnership with the UVA Cancer Center, they will connect this work with state-of-the art smartphone interventions adapted for cancer caregivers.

—and Nanoengineering Vaccines

Immune stimulating nanoparticles containing 6MHP (melanoma helper peptides) for targeted peptide vaccines

Craig Slinguff, Professor of Surgery – Oncology (SOM),  Mark Kester, Professor, Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacology (SOM/SEAS), Helena Snyder, Research Scientist, Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (SEAS)

Cancer immunotherapy has emerged as the most effective way to control cancer and improve long-term survival in patients with many types of cancer. In particular, cancer vaccines stimulate the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells, avoiding the risk of toxicity and high costs of producing antibodies outside the body and injecting them. Clinical trials have already shown that administration of vaccines for cancer targets increase T cell (immune cell) responses, but the cellular responses are usually limited and therefore not yet optimized.

Collaborators from the UVA Department of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Pharmacology and Department of Surgery will test an innovative approach to enhance immune cell responsiveness to cancer vaccines specifically for melanoma.  Combining cancer treatment and immunology expertise with nanoengineering (nanoStar) places UVA at the forefront of novel cancer research that will greatly impact clinical care and cancer therapy.