Oncology Nursing Day 2021 Message

April 6, 2021

Oncology nurses play a pivotal role in the care of individuals and their families living with cancer and have an immense impact on their quality of life throughout the cancer journey.

As we enter the second year of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to witness the tremendous dedication of oncology nurses as they rise to the challenge and provide critical care to patients and families, helping them manage difficulties associated with cancer while addressing their fear of infection.

We at de Souza want to thank and acknowledge these nurses for their brave and selfless work.

Please visit CANO-ACIO website and read many of the oncology nursing stories.

Stay safe and take good care,
de Souza Institute

Cancer Chat: Bringing AI-enabled cancer support to life

March 24, 2021

In a paper recently published in JMIR Research Protocols, researchers at de Souza Institute, University of Toronto, and La Trobe University in Australia outline their new AI-enabled cofacilitator tool for online cancer support groups. The tool uses a machine learning algorithm based on interpreting patterns of written text to track support group participants’ progress in real-time, while providing feedback to the leading therapist.

Read the full article at:

Natural Language Processing–Based Virtual Cofacilitator for Online Cancer Support Groups: Protocol for an Algorithm Development and Validation Study

March 9, 2021 |

Natural Language Processing–Based Virtual Cofacilitator for Online Cancer Support Groups: Protocol for an Algorithm Development and Validation Study

  • Authors: Yvonne W Leung, PhD; Elise Wouterloot, MA; Achini Adikari, BSc; Graeme Hirst, PhD; Daswin de Silva, PhD; Jiahui Wong, PhD; Jacqueline L Bender, PhD; Mathew Gancarz, MMSc; David Gratzer, MD; Damminda Alahakoon, PhD; Mary Jane Esplen, PhD
  • Published in: JMIR Research Protocols, Volume 10, Number 1, 2021, DOI: 10.2196/21453
  • Funding Source: Ontario Institute for Cancer Research Cancer Care Ontario Health Services Research Network

Cancer and its treatment can significantly impact the short- and long-term psychological well-being of patients and families. Emotional distress and depressive symptomatology are often associated with poor treatment adherence, reduced quality of life, and higher mortality. Cancer support groups, especially those led by health care professionals, provide a safe place for participants to discuss fear, normalize stress reactions, share solidarity, and learn about effective strategies to build resilience and enhance coping. However, in-person support groups may not always be accessible to individuals; geographic distance is one of the barriers for access, and compromised physical condition (eg, fatigue, pain) is another. Emerging evidence supports the effectiveness of online support groups in reducing access barriers.

Text-based and professional-led online support groups have been offered by Cancer Chat Canada. Participants join the group discussion using text in real time. However, therapist leaders report some challenges leading text-based online support groups in the absence of visual cues, particularly in tracking participant distress. With multiple participants typing at the same time, the nuances of the text messages or red flags for distress can sometimes be missed. Recent advances in artificial intelligence such as deep learning–based natural language processing offer potential solutions. This technology can be used to analyze online support group text data to track participants’ expressed emotional distress, including fear, sadness, and hopelessness. Artificial intelligence allows session activities to be monitored in real time and alerts the therapist to participant disengagement.

We have developed and are evaluating an artificial intelligence–based cofacilitator prototype to track and monitor online support group participants’ distress through real-time analysis of text-based messages posted during synchronous sessions.

This study received ethics approval in August 2019. Phase 1, development of an artificial intelligence–based cofacilitator, was completed in January 2020. As of December 2020, phase 2 is underway. The study is expected to be completed by September 2021.

Spotlight on Patrice de Peiza, OT Reg. (Ont.), ND, MScCH, CLT

February 11, 2021 |

Congratulations to Patrice de Peiza on her recent spotlight piece in UHN Occupational Therapy Times. Patrice de Peiza currently provides patient care as a UHN OT in the Outpatient Musculoskeletal Rehab Program at Toronto Rehab, and develops cancer rehabilitation courses in her role as the Clinical Education Lead in the Cancer Rehab and Survivorship Program … Read more

Warm Holiday Wishes from de Souza Institute

December 18, 2020

As the days pass and we bring a close to 2020, the end of the year gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on all our partnerships and interactions with our learners, faculty and staff. 2020 is an unprecedented year: COVID has changed our lives and affected our health care system in a significant … Read more

de Souza Institute Joins Michener School of Continuing Education!

November 6, 2020

We are delighted to announce the integration of the de Souza Institute with the School of Continuing Education at the Michener Institute of Education at UHN. This integration presents a strategic opportunity to expand on the de Souza Institute’s existing strength, while fully embedding it in a long-standing Canadian post-secondary institution. The de Souza Institute team … Read more