VUB, together with other European universities, is working on an app to better support people with cancer and their caregivers at home

At the beginning of this year, the large-scale European DIAdIC project was launched in which experts from nine research institutes from Belgium, Denmark, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are participating. This research project is led by VUB professor Joachim Cohen and aims to better support people with cancer and their carers.

A cancer diagnosis has a major impact on both the patient and his or her carer. Good psychosocial and educational support for both can significantly reduce the effects of the disease and improve the quality of life for both. This European project will provide the necessary evidence on which psychosocial and educational interventions are most effective.

Professor Joachim Cohen of the VUB: “An important strength and unique feature of the DIAdIC project is that it considers the patient and informal carer as a unit and that it supports them with tailor-made care that can complement existing professional care. In a context of limited resources for healthcare, there are also restrictions regarding the number of professional healthcare providers, such as doctors and nurses, who can provide psychosocial and educational support. By supporting the patient and the family carer in their own home, we expect to have more impact on improving the well-being of families.

The DIAdIC project will develop and test two different support methods: a conversation with a specially trained professional and an application that the patient and the carer can use at home. The content of both methods is tailor-made to the needs of both patients and informal carers, and looks at:

  • Improving communication within the family
  • Evaluating problems such as hopelessness, anxiety and cancer concerns, and providing targeted information to alleviate these issues
  • Providing strategies to help manage disease stress and informal care
  • Coaching in self-care strategies to combat certain psychosocial and physical symptoms patients and their caregivers have

The project is funded by the EU Research and Innovation Programme Horizon 2020 and has a budget of more than EUR 4 million for a period of five years, until December 2023. By then, interventions will be available to all European countries to provide good psychosocial and educational support to patients and their informal carers. With nearly 4 million people in the EU newly diagnosed with cancer each year, the project will have a very significant impact.

Joachim Cohen

Professor Joachim Cohen is a sociologist and lecturer with the research group End of Life Care. Within the research group he is in charge of a research programme on public health and palliative care. In 2001 he obtained his degree in sociology and in 2007 a PhD in Social Health Sciences. His research was awarded the Kubler Ross Award for Young Researchers and the Young Investigator Award from the European Association of Palliative Care 2010. He has received both awards mainly for his large-scale cross-national research on end-of-life care. Cohen has published more than 110 articles in international journals and edited a book published by Oxford University Press: “A public health perspective on end of life care”.