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Centres and institutes_

Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-Based Decision-Making

Enhancing health-care decision-making
Dedicated to conducting impactful research at the crossroads of psychology, medicine, and public health.

Our aims

The Centre for Medical Psychology and Evidence-Based Decision-Making's (CeMPED) mission is to conduct excellent research across the interface of Psychology, Medicine, and Public Health to answer questions about: the behavioural factors which promote good health and prevent disease; ways to enhance the psychosocial adjustment of patients and carers; ways to increase use of evidence in health care decision making and ways to support patients to be more involved in their own health care.

Research strengths

CeMPED’s research strengths lie in three themes:

Living with illness

  • Managing risk
  • Diagnosis and active treatment through to survivorship
  • Supportive and EOL care

Decision making

  • Shared decision making
  • Risk communication
  • Medical consultation behaviours
  • Decision support

Vulnerable groups

  • Low literacy
  • Cultural and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds (CALD)
  • Rural
  • Ageing
  • Carers


CeMPED is a cross-faculty, multidisciplinary organisation that sits within the School of Psychology, the School of Public Health and Sydney Medical School. It combines two active research groups within the University; the Medical Psychology Research Unit (MPRU) and the Shared Decision Making Hub.

CeMPED currently has over 50 staff and students. Since 1995, the staff of CeMPED have won over 170 peer reviewed grants, worth over $35 million; published over 850 articles in high impact factor journals; and been active in the media and community organisations to promote the implementation of their work.

Current research projects

Challenge: A phase III study of the impact of a physical activity program on disease-free survival in patients with high risk stage II/III colon cancer – a randomised controlled trial.

This international collaboration with the National Cancer Clinical Trials Group of Canada aims to recruit 962 colon cancer survivors to assess the impact of a three-year lifestyle intervention on their disease-free survival.  At December 2017, the CHALLENGE trial had randomised 602 participants out of the planned 962 (63% of goal). Australia has contributed 213 (35% of the global total). The United States, Israel and France have randomised 9, 3, and 4 participants, respectively. The United Kingdom is scheduled to come on board 2018. 

Principal investigator: Prof. Janette Vardy and Dr Haryana Dhillon

Other investigators: Kerry Courneya, Christopher Booth, Chris O’Callaghan

Funded by National Health & Medical Research Council, Australia

Rekindle: a phase II feasibility pilot study of an online intervention for sexual concerns in cancer survivors and/or their partners. 

This ARC funded RCT has recruited 337 cancer survivors and their partners, aiming to assess the feasibility of implementing Rekindle; a web-based intervention aiming to improve sexual satisfaction post cancer.  Recruitment is closed, but analysis is ongoing.  A School of Psychology grant has been obtained, extending the program in order to assess the unique concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Principal investigator: Dr Haryana Dhillon

Other investigators: Annie Miller, Catalina Lawsin, Desiree Spierings, Doug Williams, Fran Boyle, George Fishman, Ilona Juraskova, Judy Kay, Kevin McGeechan, Kim Hobbs, Michael Hoyt, Phyllis Butow, Sylvie LambertQIA+ community.

Funded by Australian Research Council and Cancer Council NSW

Accelerated Cognitive Ageing in colorectal cancer survivors: A follow-up study of a longitudinal cohort study of colorectal cancer survivors and healthy controls to assess the impact of cancer and its treatment on cognitive function, patient reported outcomes, functional status, and neural structure and function.

Of the 199 patients in the original study, 136 were eligible for this follow up study and of these, 50 participants completed a follow up session and data analysis is in progress.

Principal investigator: Dr Haryana Dhillon, Prof. Janette Vardy, Prof Ian Tannock, Prof Sean Rourke, Dr Greg Pond, A/Prof Jim Lagaopoulos, Dr Louise Waite

Other investigators: Prof Stephen Clarke, Dr Lucette Cysique  

Funded by Sydney Cancer Research Fund

CogRehab: a randomised evaluation of two cognitive rehabilitation interventions for cancer survivors.

A RCT to evaluate the efficacy of two cognitive rehabilitation interventions in solid tumour survivors with perceived cognitive dysfunction following chemotherapy. Thirty-five participants have been randomised, and recruitment will continue in 2018. 

Principal investigator: Prof. Janette Vardy and Dr Haryana Dhillon

Other investigators: Dr Melanie Bell, Dr Lucette Cysique, Dr Melanie Price, Prof. Martin Tattersall

Funded by Conquer Cancer Foundation, ASCO

Cognitive and functional outcomes in older breast cancer survivors: cognitive ageing and cancer

Older cancer survivors have unique health care needs. Studies in younger breast cancer (BC) survivors show that 70% report cognitive symptoms and ~30% have cognitive impairment on formal objective testing. Cancer and its treatments, in association with older age, may result in premature or accelerated cognitive ageing and reduce the ability of older survivors to function independently on a daily basis. This may lead to reductions in quality of life (QOL), increased dependence, caregiver burden and increased need for health and social resources.

Principal Investigator:  Prof. Janette Vardy

Other investigators: Dr Haryana Dhillon, Dr Joanna Fardell, Mrs Corrinne Renton, Dr Louise Waite

Funded by National Breast Cancer Foundation

Cancer Survivorship in Sydney Australia: evaluation of a clinical cancer survivorship service

An ongoing project to monitor outcomes of cancer services attending the Sydney Survivorship Service and associated programs.

Principal Investigator:  Prof. Janette Vardy

Other Investigators: Dr Cindy Tan, Ms Jane Turner, Ms Kim Kerin-Ayres, Ms Sue Butler, Dr Ash Malalaskera, Ms Sonia Khatri

Funded by Sydney Local Health District – Concord Cancer Service

Health related quality of life in people with malignant mesothelioma

This project is run in partnership with the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute. People with mesothelioma can experience a range of treatments and disease trajectories, the impact of this differing health states on their quality of life, unmet needs, and functional outcomes are unknown.  This longitudinal cohort study has recruited 105 patients and is their health-related quality of life, unmet needs, psychological distress, nutritional and functional status over time. Recruitment to the study closed in 2017 and follow-up is now complete.

Principal investigator: Prof. Janette Vardy

Funded by Cancer Institute NSW Translational Research Grant

Feasibility of a weight management program for women after cancer treatment

This study is assessing the feasibility of conducting a weight management program for women who have completed treatment for their cancer.  It will determine the adherence to twice weekly classes, dietary advice, and health parameters. The study is now closed, and analysis is being performed on the data collected from the 18 cancer survivors who participated.  

Principal investigator: Ms Jane Turner, Prof. Janette VardyDr Haryana Dhillon

Other investigators: Cindy Tan

Funded by Sydney Local Health District

Cancer Nutrition and Exercise rehabilitation program (CaNE) for patients with advanced cancer at risk of cancer cachexia syndrome – a phase II feasibility study

This study is the feasibility of a cancer nutrition and exercise program for patients with advanced cancer at risk of cancer cachexia syndrome. The study recruited 21 patients and randomised them 2:1 to the nutrition and exercise intervention versus standard care. Participants in the intervention group attend face-to-face physical activity training sessions followed immediately by nutritional supplementation and regular fish oil supplements. 

Principal investigator: Prof. Janette VardyDr Haryana Dhillon

Other investigators: Dr Cindy Tan, Dr Prunella Blinman, Ms Jane Turner, A/Prof. Amanda Salis

Funded by Sydney Catalyst

A decision-aid to inform women about over-diagnosis in mammographic screening 

A RCT of a decision aid to assess the impact of information about over diagnosis of breast cancer in women considering breast screening demonstrated delivering information about the over diagnosis increased women’s recall of this this information without increasing their decisional conflict and other outcomes.  Longer-term follow-up of these outcomes continues and it is supported by a qualitative sub study exploring the experience of using the decision aid in greater detail. 

Principal investigator: Prof. Kirsten McCaffery

Funded by National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia 

DCIS decision aid

This project aims to develop evidence to support a decision aid for women with DCIS and has been completed. Several systematic reviews to inform the decision aid have been completed and submitted for publication. 

Principal investigator: Prof Madeleine King and Dr Claudia Rutherford

Funded by Medibank Private

Decision aid for women considering prophylactic contralateral mastectomy after breast cancer

This study is compiling the evidence of benefits and harms of prophylactic contralateral mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis.  This work will be incorporated into a support a decision aid for women deciding whether or not to have prophylactic contralateral mastectomy. 

Principal investigator: Prof Phyllis Butow

Funded by Australia New Zealand Breast Cancer Trials Group

What influences women’s treatment choices for post-mastectomy breast reconstruction and radiation therapy? A cross-sectional survey and nested qualitative studies

This study aims to explore women’s attitudes, beliefs, and experiences with various breast cancer treatment options and outcomes; namely post-mastectomy reconstructive procedures that may be immediate or delayed, autologous or implant/expander-based; and with or without radiotherapy. The current findings will inform the development of shared decision-making tools for women undergoing mastectomy, which in turn will lead to facilitate informed decision-making and improved cancer care, quality of life and reduced regret for breast cancer patients.

Principal investigators: Prof Phyllis Butow, Dr Haryana Dhillon, A/Prof Ilona Juraskova

TRIO: Family involvement in consultations and decision-making

A study which has developed the first conceptual framework for family involvement in decision-making (the TRIO Framework) and the first practical strategies for clinicians communicating with family caregivers (the TRIO Guidelines). The strategies (and associated training program including videos) will be evaluated in a pilot study.  

Principal investigator: A/Prof Ilona Juraskova

Other investigators: Prof Phyllis Butow, Prof Amiram Gafni, Dr Rebekah Laidsaar-Powell

Funded by: Australian Research Council


Two psychosocial sub studies of the Genome Cancer Medicine Programme being led by Professor David Thomas at Kinghorn Cancer Centre. These studies will determine knowledge, attitudes, views and preferences, and psychological adjustment, of two cohorts from: a) the Cancer Risk study, recruiting 1000 patients primarily under the age of 40 with cancers of likely genetic origin, who will receive whole genome testing and b) the MOST study, recruiting 1000 patients with advanced cancer being offered mutation panel testing. The PiGEON study will monitor outcomes before, while awaiting and after receipt of test results, and place findings in an ethical context.  

Principal investigator: Prof Phyllis Butow

Funded by National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia

Post-doc Dr Megan Best funded by Cancer Institute NSW

ASTROID: Decision aid and DVD information support for men diagnosed with low-risk prostate cancer and their partners

Treatment decisions in prostate cancer are difficult, due to lack of clear survival benefits of one approach over another. This project is evaluating resources to assist men in these decisions.

Principal investigator: Prof Penny Schofield

Other investigators: A/Prof Ilona Juraskova, Prof M Frydenberg, Prof S Chambers, Dr Gordon, Prof R Gardiner

Funded by National Health and Medical Research Council, Australia

Health and Shared Decision-making 

This project aims to develop a shared decision-making module for lower literacy adults. The shared decision-making module will be assessed in a cluster randomised controlled trial along with a health-based program for adults enrolled in basic literacy and numeracy programs in TAFE NSW.  

Principal investigator: Prof. Kirsten McCaffery

Other investigators: Dr Sian Smith, Dr Haryana Dhillon, A/Prof Andrew Hayen, Dr Heather Shepard, Dr John P Comings, Dr Karen A Luxford, Prof Donald Nutbeam, Ms Claire Wright, Ms Wedyan Meshreky

Funded by Australian Research Council Linkage Grant

Radiation therapy talking book

This project aims to implement a talking book about radiation therapy designed to support patients with lower health literacy to prepare for radiation therapy. 

Principal investigator: Dr Haryana Dhillon & Dr Heather Shepherd

Funded by Sydney Vital Pilot grant

Radiation therapy talking book – adaption for indigenous cancer patients

This project aims to adapt an existing lower health literacy information resource, the Radiation Therapy Talking Book, for use in the Australian Indigenous populations. It aims to better prepare patients for start of radiation therapy.  

Principal investigator: Prof. Gail GarveyDr Haryana Dhillon & Dr Joanne Shaw

Funded by NHMRC Partnership Grant

Partnership links

CeMPED works with dozens of partners and collaborators across Australia and the world, including other universities, cancer bodies, hospitals and researchers.

Our resources

CeMPED has developed and evaluated a range of materials for cancer and palliative care patients, as well as their caregivers, to facilitate communication with health professionals.

A question prompt list is a structured list of questions for the patient, or their caregiver, to ask their doctor (or another health professional). We have developed and evaluated a variety of question prompt lists which are designed for different settings.

Asking questions can help: an aid for people seeing the palliative care team (PDF, 375kb)
This booklet is organised into different topics covering many areas that people may wish to address in the palliative care setting.

So you have cancer... Questions to ask your medical or radiation oncologist (PDF, 847kb)
This pamphlet includes a range of questions, including about the future, that cancer patients and their caregivers may want to ask their oncologist.

So you have cancer... Questions to ask your surgeon (PDF, 846kb)
This includes a range of questions about various aspects of your cancer and treatment options, aimed particularly for patients seeing a surgeon. 

This DVD is designed to supplement training interventions for junior medical staff regarding end-of-life discussions. It was developed as a collaborative project between CeMPED and the Pam McLean Communication Centre and the Department of Palliative Care, Royal North Shore Hospital.

Copies can be ordered for a nominal fee plus postage by contacting Phyllis Butow phyllis.butow@sydney.edu.au


SHARED-L is an international email bulletin board to further the aim of promoting shared decision-making by researchers, clinicians, patients, carers, policy makers, and the wider public.

It is currently moderated by shared decision-making researchers at CeMPED and the Screening and Test Evaluation Program across the Schools of Psychology and Public Health.

Click here to join the Shared-L list or unsubscribe.

For enquiries please contact us at: shared-l-owner@shared-l.org     

Our people

Senior members

  • Fran Boyle
  • Josephine Clayton
  • Rachel Dear
  • Laura Kirsten
  • Barbara Mullan
  • Melanie Price
  • Sian Smith
  • Lyndal Trevena
  • Janette Vardy