There is a continuing need to explore the psychosocial needs, understanding of cancer and barriers to care within patients and their families. Several recent reports have highlighted the importance of, and current deficiencies in psychosocial care of cancer patients. Recent policy documents have stated that improving the psychosocial care of cancer patients in Australia is a national priority. However, before such research can be undertaken, clear research priorities need to be established to ensure that the research effort is most cost-effective.

Stage 1 (Completed)

Focus Groups on Views of Oncology Health Professionals on Priority Psycho-Oncology Research Questions


To canvass the views of health professionals working in oncology in Australia on priority areas for research in psycho-oncology.


Focus groups were conducted with a convenience sample of psychologists, social workers, nurses and other health professionals working with cancer patients in Australia. Potential participants were identified from PoCoG membership lists and through contacts in each state and territory. Focus groups were conducted via face-to-face meetings or teleconference by an independent facilitator. In addition two telephone interviews were conducted with individual participants who were unable to attend a session but were keen to put their views forward.

Participants were asked to identify priority areas for psycho-oncology research and the facilitator prompted for further ideas or clarification as required. At the end of each focus group, each participant was asked to identify the issue they considered to be the top priority for research.


Recordings of focus group discussions were transcribed and the transcripts reviewed and analysed qualitatively to identify common themes.


In total, 54 individuals took part in the focus groups.

The results have been collated and analysed. An overview of the results will be presented as a poster at the Sydney Cancer Conference in July 2008 at the University of Sydney. Detailed results of the study are currently being prepared for publication.


These focus groups have explored health professional views of key research questions of direct clinical relevance in Australia. Within each theme, a number of specific research questions have been identified. The next phase of this study is a national survey of PoCoG members to establish national priorities for psycho-oncology research in the Australian context. The results will enable PoCoG to focus resources into priority areas of research with direct clinical relevance.

Stage 2 (Completed 2009)

Survey of PoCOG members about research priorities and research needs in psycho-oncology


To identify and prioritise the key research questions in psycho-oncology in order to guide the development of large multicentre clinically relevant studies and to identify the research needs of clinical and research professionals working in psycho-oncology.


Study design: descriptive survey

Study population and setting: health and research professionals working and/or studying in the field of psycho-oncology

Sampling: PoCoG members (n=295) were emailed an invitation to complete the on-line questionnaire by logging onto a password protected website.

Study procedure: The survey questions were developed from themes and research questions identified in a series of qualitative focus groups and interviews described above.

Participants were asked to rate 8 priority research areas and also indicate their top 4 priority areas in order of rank. Within the 4 areas they were asked to chose 3 more specific research questions they considered most important. (rating scale: 5=most important, 1=not at all important; ranking scale: 4= first most important, 1= fourth most important).


The top three priorities identified were:

  • Survivorship
  • Distress identification, referral and management
  • Issues for carers

The results were presented at the COSA Annual Scientific Meeting during the Best of the Best poster session on 19 November 2008 and are currently being prepared for publication in peer reviewed journals.

PoCoG plans to make the priorities survey one of its regular activities involving the whole membership.


Survivorship, distress identification, referral and management were clearly seen as the most important research priorities, followed by issues relating to carers and health services. The results will enable limited resources to focus on key research questions of direct clinical benefit.