When Prompted, Many Cancer Patients Indicate They Want Treatment for Depression, Smoking, Polaris Trial Shows

A clinical trial launched by Polaris Health Directions is off to a strong start with more than 100 of the planned 1,000 patients enrolled within the first six weeks. The research is examining whether using an automated assessment and referral system developed by Polaris can improve quality of life and reduce long-term costs related to poor mental health and high health care utilization among people with cancer.

The Polaris Oncology Distress Management System assesses psychosocial issues including distress and depression that are common in cancer patients. Along with offering automated referrals, the system also provides tailored feedback reports for clinicians and patients based on the patient assessment. Polaris Oncology addresses the core psychological symptoms and concerns recommended in the distress management guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and forthcoming guidelines from the American College of Surgeons.

Early indications point to the strong potential the Polaris system holds for helping health care providers address psychosocial issues in cancer patients. During the beta development phases, 20 percent of patients who reported poorer mental health than normal for cancer patients requested the automated referral option, which prompts the system to fax the patient’s information to a matched provider. Providers are selected based on location, a patient’s insurance and mental health needs, and are required to contact the patient within five days to schedule an appointment and discuss treatment options.

Additionally, 20 percent of the smokers participating in the study requested an automated referral to initiate treatment for smoking cessation.

The single-blind randomized controlled trial is a collaboration between Polaris, the University of Massachusetts Medical School, the Cooper Cancer Institute and the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

For more information on the clinical trial or on Polaris Oncology Distress Management System, send an e-mail to moreinfo@polarishealth.com.


The project described was supported by Award Number 5R42MH78432-4 from the National Institute for Mental Health. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute for Mental Health or the National Institutes of Health.