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Online stress management program for kids with cancer receives funding

by | Jun. 6, 2017, 5:15 PM | Want more research news? Subscribe to our weekly newsletter »


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Bruce Compas (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt)

Bruce Compas, Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development (Susan Urmy/Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt researchers have received funding for an internet-based education program that will teach pediatric cancer patients and their families how to cope and manage the stress associated with a serious chronic childhood condition.

The nonprofit organization Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) awarded psychology professor Bruce Compas a $300,000, three-year Psychosocial: Family Impact Grant to develop and test the online program. Many families facing chronic illness also struggle with psychosocial disorders like chronic stress, depression and anxiety, which negatively affect their brain function and overall mental health. This program will be a valuable resource for families in need of coping skills and healthy ways to communicate about the effects of cancer, Compas believes.

“When a frightening diagnosis comes in, the families are reeling from the shock, and many are not able to meet with a therapist in person or as a family,” Compas says. “We are using all we have learned about the power of coping skills to create something many families can benefit from, and can be shared across conditions.

Compas and his team will develop and test the program with families facing cancer, in hopes that it can be useful to them as well as families experiencing chronic stress as a result of other life circumstances like poverty, depression and abuse. The grant is one of four ALSF psychosocial grants awarded to researchers across North America.

The study is being conducted in partnership with colleagues at the University of Washington and Nationwide Children’s Hospital researchers with expertise in pediatric oncology; stress, coping and family communication in pediatric cancer; internet interventions in pediatric populations; and family-focused interventions to build coping and parenting skills.

Compas is the Patricia and Rodes Hart Professor of Psychology and Human Development at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of education and human development, as well as a professor of pediatrics in the Vanderbilt School of Medicine.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to finding better and safer treatments—and, ultimately, cures—for all kids with cancer, recognizes the importance of investing in research that enables better quality of care and life for children battling cancer and their families.

Media Inquiries:
Joan Brasher, (615) 322-NEWS