• Report

Cancer symptoms and side effects: A research agenda


Swinson Evans, T., West, S., Lux, L., Halpern, M., & Lohr, K. (2017). Cancer symptoms and side effects: A research agenda. (RTI Press Publication No. RB-0016-Swinson-Evans). Research Triangle Park, NC: RTI Press. DOI: 10.3768/rtipress.2017.rb.0016.1707


Cancer survivors have unique physical, psychological, social, and spiritual health needs. These can include symptoms and side effects associated with cancer and cancer treatment, such as pain, cognitive dysfunction, insomnia, and elevated anxiety and depression. This research brief summarizes a landscape review done for the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to develop a clear, comprehensive understanding of the state of research as of the mid-2000s. 
We conducted a targeted search strategy to identify projects funded by federal and commercial sources and the American Cancer Society (ACS) in addition to identifying funding opportunities released by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We conducted additional review to identify studies focused on symptom and side-effect measures and five priority topic areas (selected by PCORI prior to the review) in the following five databases (from January 2005- through September 2015) with an inclusion criteria in an adapted PICOTS framework (populations, interventions, comparators, outcomes, time frames, and settings). 
We identified 692 unduplicated studies (1/2005 to 9/2015) and retained 189 studies about cancer symptom and side-effect management. Of these studies, NIH funded 40% and the ACS 33%. Academic institutions, health care systems, other government agencies, and private foundations or industry supported the remainder. 
We identified critical gaps in the knowledge base pertaining to populations, interventions, comparators (when those are relevant for comparative effectiveness reviews), and outcomes. We also discovered gaps in cross-cutting topics, particularly for patient decision-making studies, patient self-management of cancer symptoms and side effects, and coordinated care. 

Author Details

Tammeka Swinson Evans

Tammeka Swinson Evans, MOP, is a health services researcher at RTI International with broad experience in chronic disease research that addresses health disparities and promotes health equity.

Linda Lux

Linda Lux, MPA, is a health research analyst at RTI with a focus on health services research, particularly systematic evidence reviews and studies focusing on chronic disease.

Michael Halpern

Michael T. Halpern, MD, PhD, is a health services and outcomes researcher at RTI who previously served as Strategic Director for Health Services Research for the American Cancer Society.

Kathleen Lohr

Kathleen N. Lohr, PhD, MA, is an RTI Distinguished Fellow with vast experience in health care and health policy research.