The Role of Peer Support in Patients Recovering from Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation: A Qualitative Study

Emma Deary, BA

Brigham and Women’s Hospital – Research Assistant

Scientific Abstract

Background: Peer support entails cancer survivors sharing emotional, social, and practical help with each other based on the lived experience of their illness and treatment. While most interventions for hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT) patients are facilitated by clinicians and individuals without the lived experience of cancer, an empirically-based peer support intervention would be a promising supportive oncology intervention in the HSCT population—one with unique recovery needs (e.g., prolonged hospitalization, required isolation) compared to other cancer populations.

Methods: We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews among 12 allogeneic HSCT recipients who were <6-months post-transplant without any complications and 13 allogeneic HSCT recipients ≥6-months post-transplant and living with chronic graft-versus-host-disease. The interviews covered several domains including knowledge and preference of timing, duration, structure, and intended benefits of a peer support intervention. Transcribed interviews were organized and analyzed by two coders using the Dedoose software.

Results: Patients reported they were interested in peer support, with 65% indicating they want to receive peer support in preparation for the index transplant hospitalization. Patients also reported peer support would potentially enrich their treatment and recovery experience through sharing tips to manage quarantine requirements, sharing their challenges with recovery, navigating familial relationships, and sharing advice about dealing with physical effects.

Conclusions: While there are limited data on peer support interventions in patients undergoing HSCT, this study shows that HSCT recipients foresee potential benefits and have a strong interest in receiving such an intervention. More research is needed to establish a potential intervention for this underutilized resource that has the potential to bolster HSCT patient psychological wellbeing.


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research Areas


Emma C. Deary, B.A., Elizabeth Daskalakis, B.A., Lauren E. Harnedy, B.A., Jeff C. Huffman, M.D., Areej El-Jawahri, M.D., Hermioni L. Amonoo, M.D., M.P.P.

Principal Investigator

Hermioni L. Amonoo, M.D., M.P.P.