Patient Outcomes Team Presents at Symptom Science Advances in Oncology Nursing Conference

The Symptom Science Advances in Oncology Nursing Conference was held February 4 and 5, 2021. At the meeting, researchers, health care providers, and fellows discussed the latest advancements in oncology nursing and how patients are impacted by cancer. Topics included health disparities, palliative and psychosocial care, symptom science, and symptom management. Even though the meeting was held virtually, over 800 people attended.

The NCI Center for Cancer Research Neuro-Oncology Branch (NOB) was well represented at the meeting, with 19 presentations and 5 awards received throughout the 2-day meeting. A summary of the award-winning NOB presentations is provided below.

Abstract Presentation: Living with a Central Nervous System (CNS) Tumor: Findings on Long-Term Survivorship from the NIH Natural History Study

James Rogers - awarded top 5 scoring abstracts overall

James Rogers
James Rogers

Central nervous system (CNS) tumors are associated with high symptom burden (frequency and severity of symptoms) at diagnosis. Limited information is known about the impact on long-term survivors. Long-term survivors are those who live more than 5 years after their diagnosis.

Our findings from our natural history study indicate that long-term survivors fall into distinct groups. Patients either have no significant symptoms or very high symptom burden. 43% of brain tumor survivors and 67% of spine tumor survivors reporting moderate-to-severe symptoms. These results highlight the need to incorporate long-term analyses to better understand patient outcomes and develop programs to address survivorship care needs.    

View his presentation >

Abstract Poster: Exploring the Prevalence and Burden of Sleep Disturbance in Primary Brain Tumor Patients  

Amanda King, PhD - awarded first place in the symptom management category

Our previous work demonstrated that patients with primary brain tumors often experience sleep disturbance (SD). This study aimed to identify associated clinical characteristics and co-occurring symptoms with SD to describe associated symptom burden and risk. This would aid in planning symptom intervention trials.    

Our results found that people with moderate-to-severe SD had more symptoms. Sleep interventions may alleviate other co-occurring symptoms and improve life quality for primary brain tumor patients. 

Abstract Poster: Regional Dose Response Assessment of Sleep and Circadian Brain Circuitry in Cranial Radiation-Induced Hypersomnolence (C-RIH) Mouse Model 

Demarrius Young Jr. – awarded first place in the symptom science category

Radiation therapy is a common treatment for patients with primary brain tumors. Many patients experience cranial radiation-induced hypersomnia (C-RIH), or excessive sleepiness, which impacts their quality of life and how they tolerate treatment. 

The purpose of this study was to develop an innovative preclinical model to examine the underlying mechanisms that cause C-RIH by exploring mouse behavior and changes in brain structure and function. Our model system recapitulates the human experience and demonstrates that radiation to the brain causes an increase in sleep and decrease in activity during active periods that are associated with changes in brain structures associated with sleep.

Abstract Poster: Feasibility and Utility of the Brief Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) in Primary Brain Tumor Patients 

Varna Jammula - awarded third place in the palliative/psychosocial category

Cognitive dysfunction (CD) is common in primary brain tumor patients. Objective measures of CD are burdensome, and there are only a limited number of reports evaluating their clinical utility. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and utility of the brief Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) in brain tumor patients collected as part of our natural history study.

MoCA testing was feasible, and providers reported satisfaction with its usefulness and accuracy in routine clinical care. Future studies will further evaluate validity and patient-reported impact on their symptoms and functions. 

Abstract Poster: Use of Multidisciplinary Teams and Multimedia Approaches to Develop and Disseminate Symptom and Disease Educational Materials for Rare Central Nervous System (CNS) Tumor Patients

Molly Maher - awarded third place in the hot topics: cancer disparities category

Primary CNS tumors patients are highly symptomatic while trying to navigate care for their rare disease. Additionally, evidence-based tumor and symptom educational information is limited. Our primary objective was to create and disseminate patient-centered content utilizing multidisciplinary teams, communication science, and outreach to improve access to content.

A team successfully created highly sought content that reflects the unique needs and abilities of CNS tumor patients and families. This material can educate neuro-oncology patients on their specific tumor, promote self-care, facilitate symptom management, and empower families to advocate for their unique needs, reaching outside traditional healthcare systems.


The Symptom Science Advances in Oncology Nursing Conference was a great success. Attendees learned from experts in oncology nursing and symptom science. All attendees were gathered for the same ultimate goal: to improve symptom management and care for patients and caregivers impacted by cancer. 

“We are grateful to the NOB staff and the patients and families who have participated in these studies. By exploring the impact of the disease and treatment, how patients feel and function, we hope to improve their care and outcomes,” says Terri Armstrong, Ph.D., patient outcomes program leader and deputy chief of the NOB, Center for Cancer Research, NCI, NIH.

View presentations >