Cancer Survivorship Research and Infrastructure Priorities


In order to ensure quality and impactful cancer survivorship research, the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia’s (COSA) Survivorship Group Executive Committee wanted to conduct a research study to establish expert consensus on the key priorities for cancer survivorship research in Australia.

In 2020, the group established an ECR research fellowship opportunity, and after a competitive application process Dr Fiona Crawford-Williams was selected to lead the study to determine the research priorities.

The COSA Survivorship Group provided a mentoring team and project manager support to assist in coordinating the study, but no direct funding was provided.

Funding for research in the area of cancer survivorship is limited compared to many other areas of cancer research, so it is important that cancer survivorship research builds on existing strengths and addresses gaps in evidence, so that we can continue to advance the field. Identifying research topics and research areas that are a priority for survivorship will help researchers and funders to focus their energy into areas of need.

Establishing research priorities, and then conducting research in these identified priorities, will help to advance research and improve translation of research into practice. The development of Australian-specific cancer survivorship priorities may also be useful to funding agencies for future grant schemes.

This research identified five top priorities within four different categories (physiological outcomes, psychosocial outcomes, population groups and health services) and also identified the types of research that were needed within each topic.


The highest prioritised topics and the preferred types of research were:

  • biological research for cancer progression and recurrence, intervention development research for fatigue, cognitive function, and the management of comorbidities, and implementation research for physical activity (physiological outcomes);
  • implementation research for fear of recurrence; intervention development for economic issues, transition back to daily life, and return to work or study issues, and implementation research for distress, anxiety and depression (psychosocial);
  • exploratory research for rare cancers, intervention development for survivors with advanced disease, those in rural locations, survivors of paediatric cancers, and those with low socioeconomic status (population groups); and
  • intervention development and implementation research for quality of care, models of care, self-management, communication, and patient navigation tools (health services).

Research priorities reflected cancer survivors’ unmet needs, and there was a strong preference for intervention development and implementation research designs in most areas.

The top five priorities for research infrastructure were also identified. The availability of patient data; multi-disciplinary, collaborative research; and funding opportunities were identified as the most important priorities for infrastructure which would enhance the conduct of quality cancer survivorship research.

Cancer survivorship research that is conducted in areas of identified need will more efficiently use funding and resources to advance translation of research into practice. Conducting future research which addresses the identified priorities will hopefully expand the ability of evidence-based research to meet survivors’ diverse needs and lead to improved outcomes.

Now that these priorities have been identified, the next steps are to share the findings widely with both research teams and funding bodies. We hope to encourage researchers to conduct work in the priority areas and considering how the identified priorities may assist in broadening collaborations and undertaking research that addresses current gaps in quality cancer survivorship care.

In future, an audit of survivorship research activity in Australia could be conducted to determine whether research has been progressing in the identified priorities, and to ascertain what gaps may still exist.