Professor, McMaster University, Oncology
Associate Appointment, McMaster University, Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
Clinical trials regarding optimal radiation treatment for patients with cancer and Health Services research in supportive cancer care.
The new knowledge gained is expected to benefit patients, clinicians and policy makers.
Optimizing Cancer Patient Care
Radiation therapy has been in use in one form or another for one hundred years. Despite its long and widespread use, medical specialists and policy makers have allowed it to expand without the same rigorous evaluation expected of drug therapies. Timothy Whelan has designed a systematic study to address this century-old contradiction.
The goal of this research is to identify the optimal use of radiation therapy in the treatment of women with breast cancer and other malignancies. This will involve developing reliable approaches where benefits are maximized and side effects are minimized. This study foresees better-managed radiation therapy leading to better quality of life for patients.
Dr. Timothy Whelan’s experience with clinical trials guided him in the design of the program. He and his colleagues, in collaboration with other research facilities, will search for ways to "fine-tune" cancer radiation therapy. They will attempt to answer such questions as: "How frequently should radiation be used?" or "How much radiation is too much or, too little?" Arriving at an optimal formula for treatment is the central goal of the research.
Complementing the research into improved radiation therapy will be an assessment of health services. Supportive care for cancer patients has traditionally received less attention than drug and radiation therapy. This study will look at non-medical services, such as home care, nutritional support, and social and psychological counselling.
The study recognizes the need for patients to be better informed about their disease and their desire to have an active role in the decision-making process. Many patients regain a sense of control over the disease and their lives by taking an active part in the selection of treatment. Dr. Whelan considers it important to document the influence that patient control has in changing the prognosis of the disease.