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Our Research

Dr. Kirchhoff and her research team have a collective goal of understanding and improving the health of pediatric, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivors. Using the definition from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), we define a cancer survivor as any person diagnosed with cancer from the time of diagnosis until the end of life.

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Why do we focus on cancer survivorship?

In the United States there are over 14 million cancer survivors. At the end of cancer therapy, a survivor often has to adjust to physical and emotional changes that can arise as a result of their treatment. As a team, we aim to understand survivors’ health care costs, quality of life, and other outcomes, with the goal of using this information to design interventions to support and educate cancer survivors. We explore these research questions through the analysis of patient surveys and health care administrative data. We also use qualitative methods such as semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

Our work is guided by NCI’s Cancer Control Continuum, a framework that highlights the different points in cancer care including prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, end of life, and survivorship. This framework helps us to identify research gaps and areas of needed support. As we design studies, we consider how important patient factors such as socioeconomic status, geographic barriers, and social determinants of health such as race and ethnicity, contribute to differences in survivorship care.

The most important part of our research is working with patients, families, and providers to ensure that our studies are designed to consider their unique perspectives and needs.

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Examples of Current Studies

Proyecto ESCALA (EStudio de investigación contra el CAncer para familias LAtinas) 

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Proyecto ESCALA is an exploratory study with Spanish-speaking caregivers of child and adolescent cancer patients at Primary Children’s Hospital. The goal of the study is understand the clinical care experience of Spanish-speaking caregivers, and identify barriers they face with navigating the health system for their child with cancer. Findings from this study will help in designing tailored clinical practice interventions for Spanish-speaking families.

SOAR (Survivors Of Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia are Resilient) Study

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SOAR is a pilot intervention with survivors of pediatric Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and their families. The goal of this study is to improve survivorship support and navigation at Primary Children’s Hospital through a survivorship care plan program. This effort is supported by the Hyundai Hope on Wheels Foundation.

HI-AYA (Huntsman Intermountain-Adolescent and Young Adult) Study

HI-AYA Study

In Utah, approximately 1,200 adolescents and young adults (AYAs), ages 15 to 39, are diagnosed with cancer each year. Connecting these patients to appropriate services is challenging, because many AYAs with cancer are uninsured and require age appropriate services that are often not available in pediatric or adult settings.

The HI-AYA (Huntsman Intermountain—Adolescent and Young Adult) Cancer Study is a research initiative that has worked to conduct a needs assessment to lay the groundwork for the new HI-AYA Cancer Care Program.

The HI-AYA Cancer Care Program is a new program to improve health outcomes for AYAs with cancer in the five-state Intermountain West (Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming). The goal of the HI-AYA Cancer Care program will be to provide services to link AYAs diagnosed between ages 15-39 with up to date information on survivorship, fertility and other supportive services through patient navigation.

As the HI-AYA Cancer Care Program rolls out this summer, the HI-AYA Cancer Study will continue to conduct research in order to evaluate and refine this innovative program.

Pulmonary Effects of Air Pollution among Childhood Cancer Survivors

We are the first team ever to examine the short-term effects of air pollution on the lung health of childhood cancer survivors. Several treatments for childhood cancer can cause lung problems and reduce function of this critical organ. Sdditional exposure to lung irritants from air pollution could worsen existing lung conditions among childhood cancer survivors. Air pollution is a serious problem in Utah and known to have adverse effects on the lungs of healthy children. Identifying how this environmental problem affects vulnerable cancer survivors could help reduce future hospitalizations and lung conditions. This project is supported by the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.