New research: faster recovery for people with colon cancer

A healthy lifestyle before surgery may result in fewer complications and a faster recovery for the patient. The Medical Delta Living Lab Better In Better Out focuses on researching and developing e-health applications and technologies to improve the fitness of people with cancer. The lab is also researching the collaboration between various healthcare professionals and patients after a surgery. The Oncological Care research group is assisting in this study.

The living lab has recently started a research area entitled ‘Collaborating to provide accessible care; applied research to implement perioperative and recovery care in the home of people with colon cancer’. Graduating students and current students started their research projects within this research area in September of this year.   

Surgery-focused research projects

The care around surgery falls under so-called ‘perioperative care’. People who are fitter before their surgery can shorten their hospital stay and resume their life faster. Since September, students in the Skin Therapy, Nutrition and Dietetics and Nursing degree programmes at THUAS and the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences have been working with the Medical Delta Living Lab Better In Better Out on applied research around perioperative care, recovery care and colon cancer. Students in the Oncology minor are working in groups on a number of research assignments, such as ‘factors for implementing a pre-habilitation programme’ and ‘multidisciplinary recovery care in first line’ care. The students’ findings will be used to apply for subsidies to develop large projects in collaboration with a number of other parties, including Stichting Darmkanker (the Dutch colon cancer foundation) and Mammarosa.

Research about lifestyle programmes at Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis

Some components of the lifestyle programmes have proven to be effective for colon cancer patients who will undergo surgery. However, the implementation is still a challenge. Research is being conducted at Reinier de Graaf Gasthuis in Delft to study the effect of a perioperative programme called BeBop (better be on top). This programme focusses on vulnerable seniors with colon cancer. The programme consists of a physical exercise programme, a change in diet, giving up smoking and psycho-social support. The researchers are studying the effects, such as the number of participants who die within a year, complications resulting from surgery, the person’s functioning in daily life and quality of life.

Follow-up research HMC Antoniushove

This research will likely be continued at HMC Antoniushove. To properly research the effect of the programme, it has to fit into the hospital’s care process. Little is known about the positive impact of a health programme in existing care, so students from universities of applied sciences are conducting an implementation study on behalf of the living lab. They are identifying the persons involved and study the barriers and support factors for the implementation of the BeBop programme at HMC Antoniushove. They are also researching the acceptance of the programme by participating patients and loved ones and its practical viability. And finally they will write a recommendation. The outcomes of these student studies serve as a preliminary phase for future applied research that the living lab wants to undertake.

“In our physiotherapy practice we are seeing very promising effects on the pre-habilitation for surgery, however the cost is currently an issue. Our expectation is that people with cancer will require fewer physio treatments overall when they receive proper pre-habilitation treatments. This would also reduce the cost of care.” -Remondo Goedkoop, oncology physiotherapist at B&B Healthcare

Research projects around recovery at home

Some patients require more care to regain their daily functioning. This is where recovery care plays an important role: care provided by care professionals in the person’s own home environment, tailored to their specific challenges. Very little is known about how to establish a successful collaboration in recovery care for colon cancer between first line professionals (such as a physiotherapist, skin therapist and dietician) and the patient. The real recovery process for people with colon cancer only starts after their release from hospital. It is very important to provide the right kind of care, so the person can recover and regain optimal function. Paramedical care, such as physiotherapy and dietetics can play an important role here. While in hospital, at a rehab centre or in care facility, the various care disciplines collaborate for the patient’s optimal recovery. However, at home this is no always organised that well. That is why it’s important to conduct research on how first line paramedics in the region can better collaborate to achieve the treatment goals for an optimal recovery.

“Lifestyle interventions are not always covered by insurance, especially if this is not part of a guideline or directive. When lifestyle interventions become part of treatment, we have to provide well-founded and proven programmes that meet the patients’ needs and are cost effective. That is the only way to ensure that this care will be covered for all patients with colon cancer” - Onno Guicherit, oncology surgeon HMC

The first exploratory studies are currently being conducted by students in the Oncology minors at THUAS and the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. These studies provide input to write a grant proposal for ZonMw to structurally strengthen the paramedic collaboration in recovery care that is being developed by the Medical Delta Living Lab Better In Better Out.

Presentation of the findings

The students and their supervisors will present their findings in January 2022, contributing to more knowledge about how to prepare for surgery and the post-surgery recovery care for colon cancer patients. Would you like to attend the presentation? Please register with Lottie Kuijt - Evers

More information

Are you interested in participating in one of the studies described above or would you like to collaborate with the living lab? Please contact Assia Kraan