Meet the researcher - Dr Pasquale Innominato
Dr Pasquale Innominato is a Cancer Research Wales researcher who is currently being funded for work in North Wales on technology to monitor cancer patients at home. We asked him a series of questions to learn more about his life-changing work and the reasons behind his studies.
1. What area of research do you focus on?
My research goal is to improve cancer care through accounting for our biological rhythms around 24 hours. These rhythms include rest-activity and sleep-wake cycles, hormones, physical and mental performance, mood, physiology, response to medications, as well as molecular pathways of each cell and tissue of the body.
In order to monitor these rhythms, we plan to harness digital tools, such as smartphone apps or smartwatches/rings. We hope that these novel tools will show us in almost real time, and even possibly predict, alterations that are potentially harmful to the patients, in order to provide tailored interventions to prevent further deterioration, severe symptoms or unplanned hospital admissions.
2. What is your Cancer Research Wales project aiming to do in that area?
Our initial project aimed at developing and testing a digital solution consisting in a tablet app to be used in the waiting room while waiting for the clinical consultation with the oncologist, the nurse practitioner or the clinical pharmacist by patients in Bangor.
However, with the covid-19 outbreak happening at the same time of the study, we had to modify our approach, as most of the consultations became virtual. The digital solution was modified into a personal device for the patient, with an activity tracker, which informs the healthcare team about the physical activity patterns, sleep, as well as oxygen levels, paramount during the pandemic.
We tested an initial solution including an app for symptom ratings and a wearable wristband, and we evaluated and reviewed the pitfalls and the issues. In order to develop a new generational digital solution, we anticipate testing this further in a study commencing this spring.
3. Have there been any key achievements in the project?
We have tested our first solution in a pilot involving 48 patients during the first covid-19 wave and reported our initial findings on the feasibility and the learnings we received. We are now working on the analysis of continuous recordings of activity, sleep, heart rate and oxygenation, in order to understand which level of information we can get and simulate how best we can monitor this from the hospital.
4. How is your research relevant to modern patient care?
Covid-19 has shown the need for novel approaches in communicating with the patients, and the digital tools are becoming more and more widely used. Especially in Wales with sometimes a long distance between the home of the patient and the hospital, using modern technologies to keep the patients safer is very relevant for nowadays and even future care.
5. Why did you become a Cancer Research Wales researcher?
Having moved to Wales shortly before, I had the chance to meet with a Cancer Research Wales lead and was impressed by his enthusiasm and true will to help. We were lucky enough to have been thinking about the initial pilot at the same time of a grant call that suited perfectly in terms of duration and support for the study we had in mind. We were enormously pleased and honoured to have our research supported by Cancer Research Wales and we are truly grateful for the opportunity.
6. Do you have a personal connection to cancer?
Being an oncologist, I have been involved in the care and support of all the relatives and close friends diagnosed with this disease, and I have found, and still find, it really difficult to separate the professional and personal aspects of this.
7. Is there anything you'd like to say to our supporters?
Only a heartfelt thank you for all the voluntary work you do to help Welsh researchers like me. Sometimes it is hard to see the tangible benefit of your fundraising hard work, but I am confident that every new information or discovery adds a piece to the puzzle, one that could really lead to a breakthrough for the benefit of patients, in Wales and beyond. So, thank you.