Dyadic psychosocial intervention for advanced lung cancer patients and their family caregivers: results of a randomized pilot trial

Cancer. 2015 Jan 1;121(1):150-8. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29009. Epub 2014 Sep 10.


Background: Advanced lung cancer (LC) patients and their families have reported low self-efficacy for self-care/caregiving and high rates of distress, yet few programs exist to address their supportive care needs during treatment. This pilot study examined the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy of a 6-session, telephone-based dyadic psychosocial intervention that was developed for advanced LC patients and their caregivers. The program was grounded in self-determination theory (SDT), which emphasizes the importance of competence (self-efficacy), autonomy (sense of choice/volition), and relatedness (sense of belonging/connection) for psychological functioning. The primary outcomes were patient and caregiver psychological functioning (depression/anxiety) and caregiver burden. The secondary outcomes were the SDT constructs of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

Methods: Thirty-nine advanced LC patients who were within 1 month of treatment initiation (baseline) and their caregivers (51% spouses/partners) completed surveys and were randomized to the intervention or usual medical care. Eight weeks after baseline, they completed follow-up surveys.

Results: Solid recruitment (60%) and low attrition rates demonstrated feasibility. Strong program evaluations (mean, 8.6/10) and homework completion rates (88%) supported acceptability. Participants receiving the intervention evidenced significant improvements (P < .0001) in depression, anxiety, and caregiver burden in comparison with usual medical care. Large effect sizes (d ≥ 1.2) favoring the intervention were also found for patient and caregiver competence and relatedness and for caregiver autonomous motivation for providing care.

Conclusion: These findings support intervention feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary efficacy. By empowering families with the skills to coordinate care and meet the challenges of LC together, this intervention holds great promise for improving palliative/supportive care services in cancer.

Keywords: caregivers; couples; lung cancer; palliative care; psychological distress; psychosocial intervention; supportive care.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers / psychology*
  • Family / psychology
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / nursing
  • Lung Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychotherapy, Brief / methods*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires