The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Ashley Nelson, PhD

Postdoctoral Fellow

Massachusetts General Hospital

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Kornfeld Scholars Program

Project Description
Reducing Persistent Fatigue Following Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation

Hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HCT) is a potentially curative treatment for patients with life-threatening blood disorders and involves a prolonged hospitalization. During and after this intensive treatment, patients are at risk for a host of complications, with as many as 64% of HCT recipients going on to experience profoundly debilitating fatigue up to six years post-transplant. This fatigue often persists despite routine medical intervention, and empirically-tested interventions have been largely ineffective at managing post-transplant fatigue. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment for fatigue; however, despite the pressing patient need, CBT for fatigue reduction has not been investigated in the HCT setting. To address this gap, the proposed study employs a two-stage design to develop and test a videoconference, cognitive-behavioral intervention to reduce fatigue and improve quality of life among persistently fatigued HCT survivors at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.  The first aim is to refine the CBT for fatigue intervention based on acceptability findings from an open pilot study with a small sample of transplant recipients. The second aim is to determine the feasibility and preliminary efficacy of the CBT for fatigue intervention for reducing fatigue and improving quality of life by conducting a pilot randomized controlled trial. With the essential support of an interdisciplinary team of mentors and scientific advisors, this project will provide the basis for launching Dr. Nelson’s career as an independent investigator, with the goal of changing the paradigm of care for stem cell transplant survivors. Findings could provide a roadmap for the development and adaptation of fatigue interventions for a broad variety of cancer and palliative populations.



Ashley Nelson is a clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Nelson graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BA in Psychology and later received her PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of South Florida. She completed her predoctoral internship with the Behavioral Medicine Program at the Massachusetts General Hospital, and she is currently completing her postdoctoral fellowship in Oncology Population Sciences at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. Her research focuses on understanding quality of life impairments stemming from a blood disorder diagnosis and treatment as well as adapting psychosocial interventions to alleviate physical and emotional side effects and improve quality of life.