UCD to lead new €2.1m European cancer rehab research programme

9 Jun 2017

From left: The eight new CATCH PhD students are Gillian O'Neill, Louise Brennan, Juan Muñoz Peñas, Mercè Bonjorn Dalmau, Dominic O'Connor, Ornela Bardhi, Gabriel Signorelli and Francisco Guerra. Image: Vincent Hoban

Eight researchers at UCD are getting access to €2.1m of EU funding as part of a new cancer rehabilitation research programme.

Oncology research remains a focus for many universities across the world, but University College Dublin (UCD) will now be leading a European effort to research new rehabilitation programmes for those who have experienced cancer.

The Cancer Activating Technology in Connected Health (CATCH) programme is backed by a €2.1m fund provided by the EU, and will support the international recruitment of eight PhD research students.

Future Human

Led by Prof Brian Caulfield, the eight research projects will focus on identifying technological innovations to improve cancer rehabilitation and the quality of life of cancer patients.

“Through the implementation of successful research results and discoveries in cancer care, we are now able to consider certain cancers as a chronic disease, rather than a fatal illness,” Caulfield said.

“Moving forward, CATCH is joining this fight to ensure that we can offer the tools needed to maximise the impact of the rehabilitation programmes for those living with this disease on their journey back to a full and active life.”

Some of the research projects include artificial exercise support, as a significant proportion of cancer survivors suffer cachexia – weakness of the body after illness – resulting in reduced functional capacity following treatment.

A right CATCH

To that end, UK student Dominic O’Connor will look at how NeuroMuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) may serve as an early-stage training modality for cancer patients, acting as an artificial exercise support.

Portuguese student Francisco Miguel Monteiro Guerra meanwhile will look at gamification strategies for health promotion of people affected by cancer.

This research project will focus on motivational aspects related to lifestyle change and improving health behaviour through the design of a gamification method.

Spanish student Mercè Bonjorn Dalmau will look at how, through design thinking, technology-enabled cancer solutions can be commercialised.

This will involve looking at user-centred innovation and co-creation, incorporating problem solving and business development through hands-on experimentation with users and businesses.

Led by UCD, CATCH will work with two other universities – Universidad de Deusto in Spain and the University of Southern Denmark – along with companies such as Salumedia Tecnologías and Oncoavanze, both from Spain, and the Beacon Hospital in Ireland.

Other research projects include:

  • Ethnographic analysis of the current care pathway from a patient perspective
  • Qualifying private organisations’ commercialisation efforts through stakeholder interactions
  • Quantification of health habits and needs of people affected by cancer to improve their quality of life through physical activity
  • Strategies for increasing mental wellbeing in patients with cancer
  • Targeted rehabilitation exercise biofeedback system for cancer care

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic