USC News

Menu Search
Health

Pilot project at USC develops tools to improve assessment of a patient’s health

Subjective methods leave room for error, potentially jeopardizing a patient’s health

Pilot project at USC develops tools to improve assessment of a patient’s health
The project will create a tracking system for cancer patients during therapy and long-term followup. (Photo/Connor Tarter)

A new USC-led initiative unites national cancer and defense resources in pursuit of a common goal: a quantitative way to determine just how healthy a patient is.

The project, dubbed Analytical Tools to Objectively Measure Human Performance (ATOM-HP), will create a high-quality performance status tracking system for cancer patients during therapy and long-term followup.

The goal is to be able to assess, in real time, a cancer patient’s experiences from physical, psychological and environmental factors, among others. This is expected to advance the way doctors can monitor core dynamics in cancer patients on a regular basis.

“Cancer patients undergoing treatment will frequently experience a deterioration of their health reflected in their performance status,” said Peter Kuhn, Dean’s Professor of Biological Sciences at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “Data streaming from common sensors together with Patient Reported Outcomes with appropriate mathematical modeling will be able to accurately describe performance status from cancer patients, including any problematic changes that doctors need to address.”

The two-year pilot project is overseen by a leadership committee of more than 20 experts, including researchers from USC, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, other hospitals, government agencies, cancer patients, survivors and other advocates.

Improving lives

The development of a performance signature that might integrate both patient-reported outcomes and sensor data could help both the objective assessment of performance status and better treatment approaches due to the early identification of performance deterioration.

This program is a joint effort of the National Cancer Institute’s Center for Strategic Initiatives and the Department of Defense’s Rapid Reaction Technology Office. It is aimed at improving the lives of cancer patients undergoing treatment, as well as soldiers attempting to complete a mission.

Both cancer patients and soldiers suffer similarly from physical, physiological and environmental stressors that impact their ability to perform as they each face potentially life-threatening challenges. An accurate, quantitative assessment could prevent doctors from sending patients for treatment they are not healthy enough to endure — and could help commanding officers avoid sending soldiers on missions they are not healthy enough to complete.

“Our hope for the future is that cancer patients with real-time performance status monitoring will receive faster and more tailored support, including optimal treatment with better informed decision-making,” said Jorge Nieva, associate professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. “Our commitment to supporting the continuum of care through science will ultimately improve cancer outcomes through this quality of life patient-centered model.”

More stories about:

Pilot project at USC develops tools to improve assessment of a patient’s health

Top stories on USC News