Cancer and its treatment can result in long-lasting or late-onset effects, including pain, infertility, neuropathy, sexual dysfunction, depression, graft-vs.-host disease, memory issues, financial strain, subsequent malignancies and fear of recurrence of the original cancer. At Fred Hutch, we conduct research on cancer survivorship to help guide care for cancer survivors and learn more about the challenges they face after their treatment ends. Research topics range from the cardiovascular effects of chemotherapy and radiation to the factors that affect emotional adjustment and quality of life for survivors.
Our survivorship research takes place across all Fred Hutch divisions, through the Survivorship Clinic located within Fred Hutch Wellness Center and through our Long-Term Follow-Up Program for blood stem-cell transplant patients. As part of these efforts, patients who obtain survivorship care are asked to complete an annual questionnaire about their physical, emotional and medical experiences.
Many cancer survivors experience decreased quality of life due to physical problems brought on by their cancer treatment as well as emotional issues such as anxiety, depression and fear of recurrence. Researchers in the Public Health Sciences Division, the Biobehavioral Sciences program within the Clinical Research Division, and other groups at Fred Hutch study factors associated with cancer survival and the effects of cancer and cancer treatment on quality of life. Study topics include physiological issues such as lymphedema, a condition that can present years after treatment; sexual dysfunction and body image issues; stress that can endure long after diagnosis, treatment and follow-up; and culturally appropriate methods of providing psychosocial support.
Fred Hutch teams are conducting research on long-term health outcomes for cancer survivors and ways to improve follow-up care. For example, the Fred Hutch Survivorship Program led a nationwide study aimed at improving long-term health outcomes for cancer survivors aged 18 to 39. The study, which involved six other comprehensive cancer centers, tests the effectiveness of using treatment summaries and survivorship care plans and collects evidence to support long-term follow-up recommendations.
After treatment, many cancer survivors transition back to their primary care physician, who may not understand the potential long-term or late-onset effects of the treatment or how to manage them. Researchers at Fred Hutch have helped to develop national guidelines for caring for survivors of various cancers, including head and neck and breast cancer.
A number of Hutch researchers focus on ways to improve life after cancer. In 2019, Fred Hutch acquired Cook for Your Life, a website offering an ever-expanding collection of recipes, instructional cooking videos, and science-based nutrition and health information in both English and Spanish – all adhering to standards established by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Backed by research and clinical trials, scientists at the Hutch are using this platform as a tool to advance research on diet, cancer prevention, and survivorship.
Fred Hutch has two Long-Term Follow-Up programs focused on improving survivorship. Our Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Long-Term Follow-Up program provides lifelong consultation services to recipients of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. Cellular Immunotherapy Long-Term Follow-Up provides monitoring and care for patients. Both programs partner with patients’ personal doctors and other healthcare providers to resolve medical problems that may develop after treatment.
The Survivorship Program conducts research focused on the long- and short-term physical, psychological, social and economic effects of cancer and its treatment. It offers a Survivorship Clinic for cancer survivors. The program also hosts community events for cancer survivors and caregiver and suggests coping measures to help survivors deal with everything from “chemo brain” to stress management.
Numerous Fred Hutch investigators are researching a common and potentially deadly complication of bone marrow transplant known as graft-vs.-host disease, in which donor cells mount an immune response against the recipient’s healthy tissues. The condition can be acute or chronic, affecting the skin, mouth, eyes, joints, lungs, liver and other organs. Our research ranges from preventive strategies to clinical trials and targeted therapies.