Feinstein prof snags $3.5M for bladder-cancer effort

Getting proactive on post-surgery: Stage II bladder cancer often requires the removal of the infected muscle sac -- and an ambitious Feinstein Institute professor wants to give patients (and their caregivers) the tools they'll need to deal with it.

The National Institutes of Health is backing a Long Island-based researcher’s efforts to develop a first-of-its-kind care program for post-surgical bladder cancer patients.

Michael Diefenbach, a fellow of both the Society of Behavioral Medicine and the Academy of Behavioral Medicine Research and a professor at Northwell Health’s Manhasset-based Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, has earned a five-year, $3.5 million grant from the NIH’s National Cancer Institute.

The funds will be used to develop a post-surgical care program for stage II bladder cancer patients and their caregivers – marking “the first study to address the needs of bladder cancer patients and their caregivers with the goal of reducing infections and unplanned nurse/ER visits, while improving their quality of life,” according to the Feinstein Institute.

Stage II or “muscle-invasive” bladder cancer often requires the removal of the infected bladder and the insertion of an artificial replacement to do the job of the missing muscle sac. Recovery can be long and difficult and usually requires a host of tricky care regimens – a delicate challenge for the 70,000 Americans afflicted annually by the disease, as well as their helpers.

Diefenbach’s plan is to study the “information deficit” surrounding the aftercare protocols of stage II bladder cancer suergeries, in an effort that “ensure(s) that patients and caregivers have all the tools necessary to bring them back to as normal of an everyday life as possible,” the Feinstein Institute said Wednesday.

Michael Diefenbach: Forward-thinking.

The professor’s ultimate goal: a pre-treatment education program, provided by a nurse or other trained healthcare professional, that demonstrates for patients and caregivers the necessary tools and techniques for maintenance of the artificial bladder.

Diefenbach – a longtime program reviewer for the U.S. Department of Defense, the national Veteran’s Health Administration and the NIH – also plans to develop a “recovery website” for bladder cancer patients and their helpers, stocked with instructional videos, patient and physician testimonials and other educational resources.

Noting a “high chance for infection or complications” when dealing with the body’s waste products, Diefenbach – who will collaborate on the multiyear effort with researchers in Northwell Health’s Department of Urology – said he was “grateful for the NIH’s support.”

“Care after the removal of the bladder can be challenging for patients,” the professor said, adding he hoped the NIH-funded research will help to bring patients “back to their everyday lives sooner, and to minimize medical complications through appropriate self-care information and actions.”

Thomas McGinn, head of the Feinstein Institute’s Center for Health Innovations and Outcomes Research, commended Diefenbach and his team for being “the first to address post-surgical care for bladder cancer patients and their caregivers.”

“Dr. Diefenbach’s program will be evaluated over the course of 12 months and, if found successful, has the potential to be disseminated throughout the Northwell Health organization,” McGinn, who is also the health system’s senior vice president of physician network operations, said in a statement. “This is an example of how the research we’re conducting here at the Feinstein Institute can have an immediate impact on patient care.”

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