Released on January 10, 2018

By Barbara Abney

Loerzel in the lab

A clinical trial is underway to help older cancer patients facing chemotherapy, learn to take better care of themselves at home.

University of Central Florida endowed professor in oncology nursing and cancer researcher Victoria Loerzel developed the education tool.

The trial, being conducted at the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health, is studying patients 60 years or older who have received their first cancer diagnosis.  Over three months participants play a simulation ‘game’ that gives them options for dealing with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.

“Participants ‘play’ through a simulated experience with an avatar who has just finished their first chemotherapy treatment,” said Loerzel, the principal investigator of the study.

Loerzel said older adults often have difficulty managing chemotherapy side effects at home placing them at greater risk for adverse effects such as dehydration, weight loss, low blood pressure and more.

The goal is to get patients and their caregivers to learn about effective post-chemotherapy care before they go home so they will be better equipped to deal with side effects and reduce the need for additional hospitalization when there is a problem.

The game gives the participant the opportunity to make choices for their avatar related to what they eat and drink and when they medicate for nausea and vomiting once the avatar goes home.

Those choices dictate whether or not the avatar experiences some level of nausea or vomiting within the game or whether they remain nausea free.

After the game is played the patient and their nurse discuss the outcome and whether different choices, such as taking medicine earlier or other food choices, would have had a different effect on the outcome.

Participants in the study must be patients at the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health.  Study participants are compensated for their time with a gift card. Loerzel said the goal is to study 66 patients and so far she has 45.

Loerzel is an oncology certified nurse and has been practicing for more than 20 years. She has focused much of her research on improving symptom management and quality of life for older adults with cancer. She is working with John Clochesy from the College of Nursing at the University of South Florida and Patricia Geddie, who received her Ph.D. in 2015 from the UCF College of Nursing of and is now working at the UF Health Cancer Center at Orlando Health. The project resulted from a National Institutes of Health grant Loerzel and her team received in 2015.

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