Dr. Holly Prigerson, co-director of the Center for Research and End-of-Life Care and the Irving Sherwood Wright Professor in Geriatrics at Weill Cornell Medicine, has won a 2015 Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Cancer Institute.
The prize is given annually to investigators with a history of outstanding cancer research. It will provide Dr. Prigerson with up to $600,000 in direct research-related costs a year for seven years. The National Cancer Institute expects her to devote at least 50 percent of her research activities to the award.
“I’m incredibly honored to receive this award,” Dr. Prigerson said. “Unlike other awards, it provides the freedom and support needed to advance our most exciting work. It will enable us to test our boldest ideas by supporting studies that never would have made it to the front burner of our research ‘stove.’”
Specializing in care for advanced cancer patients, Dr. Prigerson will use the award to investigate factors that promote informed decision-making and the receipt of value-consistent — and more humane — care of patients confronting death. She plans to capitalize on the powerful social, psychological and cultural factors that drive overly aggressive, non-beneficial, and sometimes torturous end-of-life care. Evidence derived from her studies will inform the development of interventions to reduce suffering in seriously ill patients and promote the adjustment of their family caregivers.
As part of this research program, Dr. Prigerson is developing tools that enhance the ability of patients and their families to understand their illness and treatment options, thus empowering them to make informed choices. She is also adapting an online intervention that diagnoses problematic adjustment and targets bereavement challenges to foster surviving family members’ wellness.
“Studies show that the medical care received by advanced cancer patients has grown increasingly aggressive,” Dr. Prigerson said. “We need research to inform wiser decisions and to ensure that the care provided to such patients is congruent with their informed preferences.”
“As life draws to a close, there is a need to prioritize the things that matter most to patients and their families. The goals of care may highlight the need to promote quality of life and reduce patient suffering as well as family stress and strain,” she added. “Our research provides the evidence essential for optimizing end-of-life care and promoting healthy bereavement adjustment.”