$3M Grant Supports Expansion of Digital Intervention for Skin Self Examination among Skin Cancer Survivors

asian woman with freckles examining her face in a mirror

New Brunswick, N.J., April 5, 2022 – With the aid of a $3 million National Cancer Institute grant (R01CA2645-01), Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey researchers aim to enhance the effectiveness of a digital intervention that supports skin self-examination for survivors of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. The project is based on a previous Rutgers Cancer Institute research study that resulted in the development of an internet-based intervention called mySmartSkin, designed to help to promote regular, thorough checks of the skin for survivors with high risk of recurrence of the disease. 

The American Cancer Society predicts that nearly 100,000 new melanoma cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year. Melanoma develops in the cells that are responsible for making pigment in the skin. Survivors of the disease are at elevated risk for recurrence and new primary cancers. Most recurrent melanomas are found by survivors themselves, which is why physicians should educate survivors about the importance of skin self-exams. 

The study, led by principal investigators Sharon Manne, PhD, chief  of Behavioral Science at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Carolyn J. Heckman, PhD, co-leader of the Cancer Prevention and Control Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute, aims to enhance mySmartSkin with more interactive features using stakeholder engagement. Researchers will then recruit survivors nationally through state cancer registries and social media and compare the effects of the enhanced version of the MySmartSkin versus a non-interactive educational webpage. The team also will explore perspectives from survivors, care providers, and professional organizations and determine how to best disseminate and implement mySmartSkin on a broad scale.

Dr. HeckmanDr. Manne

Drs. Carolyn Heckman (left) and Sharon Manne (right)

“In our initial assessment, mySmartSkin had a significant positive impact on survivors’ performance of comprehensive skin self-examinations,” notes Dr. Manne, who also serves as co-director for the Cancer Survivorship and Outcomes Center and is a professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “Additional research with a larger sample size, a longer follow-up to see how long the positive impact on skin self-checks lasts, and identifying different ways to reach melanoma survivors in the communities where they live rather than those seeking treatment at a cancer center is needed given the rising rates of melanoma; this grant will assist us with these initiatives.” 

“This project will provide important information about potentially cost-effective ways to reach survivors as well as about how to adapt internet-based interventions successfully,” notes Dr. Heckman, who is also an associate professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “It is important for individuals to follow recommendations to conduct regular, thorough skin self-examinations that facilitate early disease detection, especially those with a history of melanoma who are at increased risk. Melanoma can often be treated successfully if detected early.”

The project period runs for five years. 

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute, together with RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options including bone marrow transplantation, proton therapy, CAR T-cell therapy and complex surgical procedures. Along with clinical trials and novel therapeutics such as precision medicine and immunotherapy – many of which are not widely available – patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital in Newark, as well as through RWJBarnabas Health facilities. To make a tax-deductible gift to support Rutgers Cancer Institute, call 848-932-8013 or visit www.cinj.org/giving.


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