The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Areej El-Jawahri MD

Assistant Professor

Massachusetts General Hospital

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Pilot & Exploratory Project Support Grant

Project Description
Psychological Intervention Mobile Application (App) to Promote Coping in Patients with Acute Myeloid Leukemia

The goal of this study is to test a multicomponent, mobile tablet psychological intervention application (app) for patients with a new diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Patients newly diagnosed with AML confront a sudden and life-threatening diagnosis, requiring an immediate disruption of their life and an urgent 4-6 week hospitalization to initiate intensive chemotherapy. During this hospitalization, they endure substantial physical symptoms, which negatively impacts their quality of life (QOL). Patients also experience significant psychological distress as they struggle with the abrupt onset of illness, uncertainty regarding their prognosis, and physical and social isolation during hospitalization. Despite the psychological sequelae patients with AML experience, studies investigating the efficacy of psychological interventions addressing the needs of this population are lacking.

We secured funding to develop a multicomponent, mobile tablet psychological intervention app, which consists of 1) supportive psychotherapy to address initial shock of diagnosis, cope with the loss of independence, and provide reassurance; 2) psychoeducation to enhance preparedness and manage expectations; 3) psychosocial skill-building component to facilitate acceptance while living with uncertainty; and 4) self-care component to enhance patients’ sense of self control. The proposed project will proceed in two phases using mixed qualitative and quantitative methods. During phase 1, we will refine the psychological intervention app based on an open pilot study of 5-7 patients with new diagnosis of AML. During the second phase, we will conduct a pilot randomized controlled trial of the intervention versus usual care in 60 patients with a new diagnosis of AML to assess the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of the intervention in improving patients’ mood, QOL, symptom burden, and self-efficacy. Findings from this work will inform an R01-funded trial of a patient-centered, mobile psychological intervention app that will substantially enhance the care of patients with AML and has the potential for easy dissemination.


Areej El-Jawahri, MD, is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Director of the Bone Marrow Transplantation Survivorship Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center. She received her medical degree from Harvard Medical School and completed her residency training in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.  She then completed her fellowship training in medical oncology at the Dana Farber Partners Cancer Care Training Program.  Dr. El-Jawahri’s research interest include investigating patient-reported outcomes, implementing patient-centered decision-making interventions, and designing palliative and supportive care interventions to improve the care of patients with hematologic malignancies and their caregivers.  She is also interested in exploring models of health care delivery to improve patients’ quality of life and end-of-life care and to enhance their prognostic awareness.