A Web-Based Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Couples Dealing With Chronic Cancer-Related Fatigue: Protocol for a Single-Arm Pilot Trial

Fabiola Müller*, Sophie van Dongen, Rosalie van Woezik, Marijke Tibosch, Marrit A Tuinman, Melanie P J Schellekens, Jean-Philippe Laurenceau, Marije van der Lee, Mariët Hagedoorn

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Chronic fatigue is a common symptom among patients who have been treated for cancer. Current psychosocial interventions typically target the patient alone, despite growing evidence suggesting that a couples' approach can increase and broaden the efficacy of an intervention. Therefore, based on an existing web-based mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for patients, the couple intervention COMPANION was developed.

OBJECTIVE: The primary objectives of this study are to determine the acceptability of COMPANION and its potential efficacy in reducing fatigue in patients with cancer. Our secondary objectives are to examine the feasibility of the trial procedures and the potential working mechanisms of the couple intervention.

METHODS: We will conduct a single-arm pilot trial for couples (ie, patients with cancer with chronic fatigue and their partners). All couples are allocated to the web-based couple intervention that consists of psychoeducation, mindfulness, and cognitive-behavioral exercises. The 9 sessions of the intervention are supervised remotely by a trained therapist. Patients and partners will complete questionnaires before starting the intervention (T0), 2 weeks after completing the intervention (T1), and 1 month after T1 (T2). They will also fill out weekly diaries during the intervention period. A subsample of patients (n≈5) and partners (n≈5) as well as all the therapists providing COMPANION will participate in the final focus groups. Benchmark values have been defined to determine the acceptability (ie, ≥60% of couples complete the intervention and/or ≥70% of the participants are satisfied with the intervention) and potential efficacy (ie, a significant improvement in fatigue and/or a clinically relevant improvement in fatigue in 45% of the patients between T0 and T1) of the intervention. The trial procedures are deemed feasible if an average of at least three couples are included per recruiting month and/or adherence to the assessments is at least 65% for T1 and the diaries and 60% for T2. To establish potential working mechanisms, changes in affect, sleep, catastrophizing, partner communication and interactions, self-efficacy, mindfulness, and closeness will be examined. Quantitative outcomes will be interpreted along with the results from the focus groups.

RESULTS: Data collection is expected to be completed by March 2024.

CONCLUSIONS: This pilot trial will test the first web-based mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for couples targeting chronic cancer-related fatigue. Findings will indicate whether proceeding with a randomized controlled trial is warranted.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT05636696; https://clinicaltrials.gov/study/NCT05636696.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere48329
Number of pages16
JournalJMIR research protocols
Publication statusPublished - 6-Nov-2023

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