Grantee Spotlight: Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Ovarian cancer affects 1 in 75 women, making it the seventh most common cancer among women. Treatment for ovarian cancer often requires aggressive surgeries and medical interventions that can cause significant physical and psychological changes. Approximately half of women affected by ovarian cancer will experience difficulties with their sexual health, which can dramatically affect their quality of life.

In 2014, the Patty Brisben Foundation awarded a grant to a team of researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute for research on improving sexual function for women who had undergone ovarian cancer treatment. The goal of the study was to develop and test a brief educational intervention to help women manage sexual dysfunction.

Participants attended a half-day session that included sexual health education, relaxation, and cognitive behavioral therapy skills in a group setting. Their sexual function was assessed prior to intervention and regularly following treatment, and they showed significant improvements in sexual function and psychological distress that were maintained at the 6-month follow up.

These results were pivotal for the development of a brief and low-intensity sexual health intervention for women with treatment-related sexual dysfunction. Dr. Sharon Bober and her team were able to shape both the content and delivery of their intervention which has since been implemented with women after other types of cancer treatment. The findings were published by the American Cancer Society in 2017, and we hope that they will continue to influence treatments for cancer survivors.

None of this would have been possible without support from the Patty Brisben Foundation. The team currently has funding from the National Institutes of Health to conduct a randomized clinical trial for a brief sexual intervention that is delivered on-line. Their current efforts will allow them to see if they can replicate success from this earlier intervention work and reach many more survivors by utilizing a synchronous videoconference platform. 

You can read more about the publication of this study here.