Older Persons and Cancer and Palliative Care

Older Persons Care research contact: Associate Professor Chris Toye
Cancer Care research contact: Associate Professor Georgia Halkett
Palliative Care research contact: Professor Samar Aoun

Cancer Care

This research group focuses on improving support and education for patients diagnosed with cancer and their carers. A/Prof Georgia Halkett, the team lead, is currently supported by a Cancer Council of WA Research Fellowship. The focus of this fellowship is on improving psychosocial support and education for patients with cancer and their carers. Curtin University is supporting the fellowship by offering two PhD scholarships in this area.

CareIs Project

We are currently testing a nurse led intervention (CareIs) for carers of patients diagnosed with high grade glioma to determine whether we can reduce carer distress and improve their level of preparedness. The carer education program consists of 1) Telephone assessment of carer’s needs; 2) nurse-led home visit; 3) Personalised resource file tailored for individual carer and 4) ongoing telephone assessment for 12 months.We are also determining the cost effectiveness of the intervention. We have participating sites in both Western Australia and New South Wales. This project is being funded by Cancer Australia.

Collaborators: Anna Nowak (University of WA, Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH)), Elizabeth Lobb (Calvary Health Care Kogarah and Cunningham Centre for Palliative Care), Jane Phillips (University of Technology Sydney (UTS)), Peter Hudson (St Vincent’s Hospital Victoria), Rachael Moorin (Curtin University), Lisa Miller (WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network), Max Bulsara (University of Notre Dame), Anne Long (SCGH), Anne King (WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network), Stephanie Fewster (Carers WA), Daphne Tsoi (St John of God Hospital, WA), Meera Agar (UTS), Helen Wheeler (Royal North Shore Hospital, NSW), Liz Hovey (Prince of Wales Hospital, NSW), Nitya Patanjali (Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, NSW), Rachel Dear (St Vincents, NSW), Cecilia Gyzell (St Vincents, NSW), Tracey Dunlop (St George Hospital, NSW).  Research Staff: Jenny Clarke, Robyn Attwood and Laura Emery.

Recruiting sites: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (WA), St John of God Hospital (WA), St George Hospital (NSW), Royal North Shore Hospital (NSW) Chris O’Brien Lifehouse (NSW), St Vincents (NSW) and Prince of Wales Hospital (NSW).
ANZCTR Trial number: ACTRN12612001147875

RT Prepare Project

We have also recently completed a study on improving breast cancer patients’ preparation for radiotherapy (RT-Prepare). The RT Prepare intervention comprised two consultations with an RT: prior to treatment planning and on the first day of treatment. Radiation therapists focused on providing sensory and procedural information and addressing patients’ pre-treatment anxiety. Radiation Therapists were provided with communication skills training prior to delivering the intervention. Compared to usual care, intervention participants reported lower psychological distress at treatment commencement. Improvements were also seen for concerns about radiotherapy, patient knowledge, procedural and sensory concerns. This project was funded by Cancer Australia and Beyond Blue. We are now further developing this research for other cancer groups and exploring ways to translate into practice.

Collaborators: Moira O’Connor (Curtin University), Penelope Schofield (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre) Michael Jefford (Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre), Sanchia Aranda (Cancer Council Australia), Susan Merchant (Royal Adelaide Hospital), Nigel Spry (Genesis Cancer Care/SCGH), Robert Kane (Curtin Universiy), Thérèse Shaw (Telethon Kids Institute, UWA), David Youens (Curtin University), Rachael Moorin (Curtin University).

Recruiting sites: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (WA), Royal Adelaide Hospital (SA) and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre (Vic).
ANZCTR Trial number: ACTRN12611001000998

EORTC Quality of Life Module for Proctitis

We have recently completed Phase IV testing the EORTC Quality of Life Module for Radiation Proctitis in four languages (English, Norwegian, Italian, German and French). The module is completed with the EORTC-QLQ-C30 by patients who have received radiation therapy to their pelvis. This research was funded by the EORTC. This research will soon be published and we anticipate that the module will be used in routine care for proctitis.

Collaborators: Nigel Spry (SCGH/Genesis Cancer Care), Samar Aoun (Curtin University), Adam Wigley (University of Notre Dame), Maurizio Portaluri and Francesco Tramacere (“A. Perrino” General Hospital, ASL Brindisi, Italy), Lorenzo Livi and Beatrice Detti (University of Florence, Florence, Italy), Stefano Arcangeli (San Camillo and Forlanini Hospitals, Rome, Italy), Jo-Asmund Lund and Are Kristensen (St. Olavs University Hospital, Trondheim, Norway), Nathalie McFadden (Universitaire de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada), Arne Grun (Charité – University Medicine, Berlin, Germany), Elfriede Greimel (Medical University Graz, Graz, Austria) – On behalf of the EORTC Quality of Life Group

Recruiting sites: Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (Western Australia), “A. Perrino” General Hospital, ASL Brindisi (Italy); University of Florence, Florence (Italy); San Camillo and Forlanini Hospitals, Rome (Italy); St. Olavs University Hospital, Trondheim (Norway); Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, (Quebec, Canada) and Charité – University Medicine, Berlin (Germany).

Sustaining the Radiation Oncology Workforce in WA

This research team and the Discipline of Medical Radiation Science in the Faculty of Science of Engineering at Curtin University have also collaborated with clinical sites in WA (Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital and Genesis Cancer Care) to conduct a project on sustaining the radiation oncology workforce through collaborative research and education. This project was funded by the Better Access to Radiation Oncology program of the Commonwealth’s Department of Health and Ageing. Although this initial project has been completed we continue to collaborate as the Radiation Oncology Workforce WA Group with support from the WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network.

Collaborators: Jan McKay (Curtin University), Melissa Berg (Curtin University), Martin A Ebert (SCGH, UWA), David Cutt (Genesis Cancer Care), Michael Davis (Genesis Cancer Care), Michael House (UWA), Michelle Judson (SCGH), Rachel Kearvell (SCGH), Sharon Maresse (Curtin University), Peter McLoone (Genesis Cancer Care), Lauren Breen (Curtin University, Desley Hegney (Central Queensland University), Leanne Lester (UWA).

More information about this project can be found at: www.radoncwa.org.au

More Information

Please refer to A/Prof Halkett’s page to find publications relating to each of these projects.

We are developing future projects focusing on the psychosocial needs of cancer patients and their carers and workforce issues in radiation oncology. Please contact A/Prof Georgia Halkett for further information.

Team Members:

HDR Students:

  • Chandrika Gibson
  • Narelle Smith


  • Jenny Clarke
  • Laura Emery
  • Melissa Berg
  • Robyn Attwood

Palliative Care

These four research areas offer opportunities for postgraduate studies to be undertaken as well as research training for early career researchers in quantitative and qualitative methods.

Family caregiving research in end of life care

The Carer Support Needs Assessment Tool (CSNAT) encompasses the physical, psychological, social, practical, financial and spiritual support needs that government policies emphasize should be assessed and addressed. A series of CSNAT studies is investigating the extent to which the CSNAT used in home based care improves the family carer’s perceived support, physical and psychological health, carer strain, carer distress and bereavement outcomes. Industry partners are: Silver Chain Hospice Care (family carers of cancer patients at home); Motor Neurone Disease Associations (for MND family carers at home); Juniper (for Dementia family carers in the community); St John of God palliative care unit (for family carers support post discharge). International research partners are from Manchester University and Cambridge University in the UK, and University of Victoria in Canada.

Support needs of people with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and their family carers

Educational and psychological and supportive interventions have been or are currently been trialled for this under-served population group: A palliative care educational program for health professionals working with people with MND and their family carers; Dignity Therapy which is a psychotherapeutic intervention for MND patients and their family carers; Working with neurologists in Australia and patients and family carers on developing best practice guidelines on breaking bad news in MND. Industry partners: MND Associations in Australia. National research partners: Monash University and Swinburne University in Victoria. International research partners: University of Manitoba, Canada and University of Kent, UK.

Support needs of terminally ill people who live alone at home

There are growing challenges facing home-based palliative care services in supporting the increasing number of people living alone who require care. Our studies are examining the effectiveness of suitable models of care in order to provide directions for service planning for this growing and challenging population group. Studies will ascertain key areas that need to be addressed by service providers to assist people who live alone maintain optimal quality of life and receive palliative symptom management and terminal care in their place of choice. Industry partner: Silver Chain Hospice Care.

Development of an evidence based bereavement model of care

A public health approach to developing bereavement services in palliative care offers the foundation for determining the types of bereavement supports that need to be provided to carers and families, depending on their needs and risk factors. The identification of unmet needs and the ability to make recommendations for service provision based on the level of need in the bereaved population will guide health and community services in their resource allocation. Industry partners: funeral providers and palliative care services. National research partner: La Trobe University, Victoria.