Project Summary

Background: Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI)—including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder—die nearly 30 years earlier than the general population, and cancer is the second leading cause of death. Patients with SMI are more than twice as likely to die from many common cancers and less likely to receive timely, stage-appropriate cancer care. However, this vulnerable population is understudied. To promote equity in cancer care, stakeholders have identified the need to develop partnerships between patients, caregivers, clinicians, advocates, and policy makers.

Proposed Solution: The project team proposes to build the Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative, a community network to engage patient, caregiver, clinician, and community partners to promote equity in cancer care for people affected by mental illness. Stakeholders expressed their commitment to bridging the divide in mental health and cancer care. The team will develop the Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative including a patient/stakeholder advisory board and a web platform to support engagement. The project team will build capacity for partners to engage in PCOR and strengthen channels to disseminate PCOR targeted to this population. The researchers are based at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Boston, Massachusetts and will collaborate with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.


  • Develop the Cancer and Mental Health Collaborative, to engage patients, caregivers, clinicians, and community leaders to improve cancer outcomes for people with SMI
  • Build capacity to partner in PCOR dedicated to this understudied population
  • Utilize and create channels to disseminate PCOR findings and develop targeted dissemination strategies

Build the collaborative:

  • Establish infrastructure to promote engagement: patient/stakeholder advisory board, steering committee, and dissemination committee
  • Create web platform to allow members of collaborative to communicate and be connected to PCOR updates

Build capacity to engage in PCOR:

  • Complete stakeholder needs assessment
  • Symposium #1: Identify stakeholder priorities for PCOR
  • Symposium #2: Dissemination and sustainability of key PCOR findings

Create and utilize channels to disseminate PCOR:

  • Develop preliminary dissemination plan targeted to collaborating organizations
  • Prioritize key PCORI findings and inform research agenda

Project Collaborators:

  • Massachusetts Department of Mental Health
  • Beacon Health Options
  • Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Academy
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness - Massachusetts
  • MoodNetwork and PCORnet
  • American Cancer Society
  • NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP)

Outcomes/Outputs: Leadership structure, web platform to foster communication, curriculum for a PCOR module for the board: bidirectional learning to support engagement, stakeholder needs assessment, PCOR research agenda, and a dissemination toolkit for bridging mental health and cancer care.

Patient and Stakeholder Engagement: This project engages diverse stakeholders including patients, caregivers, clinicians, advocates, and the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health. Stakeholders will be involved on the advisory board and steering and dissemination committees. They will also conduct a needs assessment, develop targeted dissemination plans, and inform the research agenda.

Project Information

Kelly Irwin, MD, MPH
Andy Nierenberg, MD, and Elyse Park, PhD, MPH
Massachusetts General Hospital

Key Dates

24 months


Project Status
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: February 2, 2023