Cancer Control Research5R03CA128472-02
DEFICITS IN FACIAL EXPRESSION RECOGNITION IN CHILDHOOD CANCER SURVIVORS
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Since the 1960's there has been a marked increase in the 5-year survival rates among children diagnosed with cancer (current "cure" rate = 77%). Despite the favorable prognosis for survival, patients are at high risk for both acute and late occurring sequelae associated with their disease and treatments. Children who receive therapies that impact the central nervous system are at even higher risk for cognitive, social and psychological deficits. The repercussions of these deficits can be lasting and costly with many childhood cancer survivors never achieving the normal milestones of adulthood such as living independently, marrying and procuring stable employment. As a result, researchers from the Childhood Cancer Survivors Study have called for better assessment of critical psychosocial variables associated with the survivors' ability to successfully integrate into society. The current application seeks to address this directive by developing a new measure to assess critical skills related to effective social functioning. In conducting preliminary studies with this patient population, we found that survivors exhibit significant deficits in recognition of facial expressions and these deficits are associated with problems in social interactions. To further explore this relationship a multi-disciplinary team of investigators with established track records in pediatric cancer and measure development is assembled to test the feasibility of a digital facial recognition task which we will adapt for use in this population. After testing the feasibility of this measure with a small sample of childhood cancer survivors and healthy controls, we will use the measure to assess differences in facial recognition skill in a sample of 34 survivors and 34 healthy controls. We hypothesize that survivors will make significantly more errors than healthy controls. Additionally, we hypothesize that survivors will have a higher threshold for perceiving negatively-valenced emotions (anger, fear or sadness) than healthy controls. If our hypotheses are supported, we will extend the findings to the development of an intervention to enhance the quality of survival of this vulnerable population. Since the 1960's there has been a marked increase in the survival rates among children diagnosed with cancer (current "cure" rate = 77%). Despite the favorable prognosis for survival, children are at high risk for both acute and late occurring problems associated with their disease and treatments. As such, the current application reflects a critical public health need: improvement of the outcomes associated with surviving childhood cancer - moving beyond just saving a child's life, and towards providing the best life possible.