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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2009 Mar;37(3):387-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2008.03.014. Epub 2008 Aug 19.

Challenges to and lessons learned from conducting palliative care research.

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National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


In response to a 2005 solicitation from the U.S. National Institutes of Health, 16 investigators received funding to test interventions that would reduce the barriers that prevent cancer patients from receiving adequate and appropriate symptom management therapies. Since the awards have been issued, the investigators have met two times and have identified a number of challenges to implementing their respective studies. A survey was conducted that focused on their experiences with hiring and retaining study personnel, gaining Institutional Review Board approval, incurring unexpected costs, challenges to accruing participants, and a listing of standard measures used in the study. The survey was completed online by the Principal Investigator for each project in late 2006 and the initial results were confirmed one year later by resending the initial survey and by a follow-up telephone call. All but one Principal Investigator completed the survey. Obtaining Institutional Review Board approval, hiring and recruiting research personnel, establishing subcontracts, and accruing research subjects were the primary challenges experienced by the investigators. This palliative care solicitation achieved more than its original intent of stimulating research in overcoming barriers to delivering cancer symptom management, palliative care and end-of-life care. From a survey on the challenges and issues that emerged from their projects, grantees were able to identify specific hurdles and their unique solutions that may help other investigators as they plan their program of research.

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