Researcher biography

I have worked for over 20 years in the field of Psycho-Oncology as a psychiatrist providing treatment for patients with cancer and their families, and developing a program of research focused on interventions in areas of clinical need, and translational research examining sustainable models of service delivery.

Psycho-Oncology encompasses attention to the psychological, emotional and social needs of people with cancer and their families or carers. It encompasses attention to spiritual and cultural concerns, across all phases of the cancer experience from diagnosis, through treatment, survivorship or advanced diseases. It is a relatively new discipline. The International Psycho-Oncology Society was established in 1984. As such, much of the research in this field has been descriptive and it is only in recent years that robust trials of interventions have become more common. involves attention to the psychological, emotional and social needs of people with cancer and their family or carers. ath.

My research in Psycho-Oncology relates to three core themes which draw on both my clinical and educational expertise:

1. Promotion of wellness following completion of active cancer treatment:

Current RCTs are:

  1. Improving quality of life in high-risk cancer populations: a randomised trial of a structured intervention for head and neck cancer survivors (Turner, Yates, Kenny, Gordon, Burmeister, Thomson, Hughes, McCarthy, Perry, Chan)
  2. The women's wellness after cancer program: a national multisite RCT of an E-Health enabled lifestyle modification intervention to improve the health and wellness of women after cancer treatment (Anderson, McCarthy, Yates, Turner, Monterosso, Krishnasamy, White, Hall, Tjondronegoro)
  3. Evaluation of a psychological and educational intervention for fear of cancer recurrence: A clustered randomised controlled trial (Butow, Thewes, Turner, Gilchrist, Beith, Girgis, Sharpe, Bell, Mihalopoulos).
  4. Coping Together: A randomised controlled trial of a self-directed coping skills intervention for patients with cancer and their partners (Girgis, Lambert, Turner, McElduff, Kayser, Mihalopoulos).
  5. Finding My Way: A randomised controlled trial evaluating an internet self-help program for cancer-related distress (Beatty, Koczwara, Wade, Turner, Butow, Knott, Lambert, Milne, Wootten, De Bono, Katris)

Completed studies include: i) a pilot study of an exercise intervention for women after completion of chemotherapy for breast cancer (Turner, Hayes, Reul-Hirche); ii) RCT of exercise in women with Lymphoedema secondary to treatment for breast cancer (Hayes, Reul-Hirche, Turner), iii) RCT examining promotion of wellness through cancer helplines (Chambers, Occhipinti, Turner, Carter, Dunn).

2. The emotional dimensions of cancer for patients and dependent children:

Initial work exploring the emotional impact of the diagnosis of advanced breast cancer (Turner, Kelly, Swanson, Allison, Wetzig) identified key areas of unmet need relating to concerns of parents and their response to their children.

This provided the impetus for a pilot study in which an educational intervention was developed to enhance the capacity of oncology nurses to provide supportive care for parents with advanced cancer (Turner, Clavarino, Butow, Yates, Hargraves, O'Connor, Hausmann).

Collaborations in the area of advanced cancer include a multi-centre randomised trial of an antidepressant for patients with advanced cancer (Stockler, O'Connoll, Nowack, Goldstein, Turner, Wilcken, Wyld, Abdi, Glasgow, Beale). This was the largest study of its kind ever conducted world-wide.

Another study explored the acceptability and effectiveness of a structured supervision experience for General Practitioners caring for terminally ill patients (Varghese, Kelly, Burnett, Kelly, Robertson, Mitchell, Turner, Treston).

3. Scholarship of research and translational research:

A major theme has been scholarship in research and collation of evidence into Clinical Practice Guidelines and implementation of these to guide health professionals in provision of optimal clinical care.

I have chaired working groups developing the following NHMRC-endorsed Clinical Practice Guidelines:

  • Clinical Guidance for Responding to Suffering in Adults with Cancer (
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Psychosocial Care of Adults with Cancer
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care of Younger Women with Breast Cancer
  • Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Psychosocial Care of Women with Breast Cancer
  • In addition I have been an active member of working groups which developed other NHMRC-endorsed guidelines: Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Women with Early Breast Cancer, Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Management of Women with Advanced Breast Cancer, and consumer versions of these.

Chair of a working group convened by Cancer Australia to develop national Psychosocial Indicators as part of a National Cancer Control Indicators framework.

Recently-completed RCT:

PROMPT study, a multi-site randomised controlled trial (Turner, Kelly, Clarke, Yates, Aranda, Jolley) aiming to demonstrate the effectiveness of psychosocial interventions delivered by novel service providers who have undergone focused training and receive ongoing supervision. The study demonstrated that a brief intervention was insufficient to improve depression in cancer patients. Patients with advanced disease experienced improvement in several practical areas of need.