A Positive Psychology Intervention in Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation Survivors (PATH): A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial

J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2024 Jun;22(2D):e237117. doi: 10.6004/jnccn.2023.7117.


Background: Allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) survivors experience significant psychological distress and low levels of positive psychological well-being, which can undermine patient-reported outcomes (PROs), such as quality of life (QoL). Hence, we conducted a pilot randomized clinical trial to assess the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of a telephone-delivered positive psychology intervention (Positive Affect for the Transplantation of Hematopoietic stem cells intervention [PATH]) for improving well-being in HSCT survivors.

Methods: HSCT survivors who were 100 days post-HSCT for hematologic malignancy at an academic institution were randomly assigned to either PATH or usual care. PATH, delivered by a behavioral health expert, entailed 9 weekly phone sessions on gratitude, personal strengths, and meaning. We defined feasibility a priori as >60% of eligible participants enrolling in the study and >75% of PATH participants completing ≥6 of 9 sessions. At baseline and 9 and 18 weeks, patients self-reported gratitude, positive affect, life satisfaction, optimism, anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), QoL, physical function, and fatigue. We used repeated measures regression models and estimates of effect size (Cohen's d) to explore the preliminary effects of PATH on outcomes.

Results: We enrolled 68.6% (72/105) of eligible patients (mean age, 57 years; 50% female). Of those randomized to PATH, 91% completed all sessions and reported positive psychology exercises as easy to complete and subjectively useful. Compared with usual care, PATH participants reported greater improvements in gratitude (β = 1.38; d = 0.32), anxiety (β = -1.43; d = -0.40), and physical function (β = 2.15; d = 0.23) at 9 weeks and gratitude (β = 0.97; d = 0.22), positive affect (β = 2.02; d = 0.27), life satisfaction (β = 1.82; d = 0.24), optimism (β = 2.70; d = 0.49), anxiety (β = -1.62; d = -0.46), depression (β = -1.04; d = -0.33), PTSD (β = -2.50; d = -0.29), QoL (β = 7.70; d = 0.41), physical function (β = 5.21; d = 0.56), and fatigue (β = -2.54; d = -0.33) at 18 weeks.

Conclusions: PATH is feasible, with promising signals for improving psychological well-being, QoL, physical function, and fatigue in HSCT survivors. Future multisite trials that investigate PATH's efficacy are needed to establish its effects on PROs in this population.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cancer Survivors / psychology
  • Female
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / psychology
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / adverse effects
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / methods
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation* / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychology, Positive* / methods
  • Quality of Life*
  • Survivors / psychology
  • Transplantation, Homologous