Improving supportive care during immunotherapy: co-design of a patient reported outcome measure to assess adverse events in people with renal and melanoma cancers

To improve the outcomes of people with renal and melanoma cancers treated with immunotherapy this PhD aims to co-design a patient-reported outcome (PRO) measure of immunotherapy-related adverse events (side effects), based on best practice recommendations for PRO design.  

Start date
1 July 2021
36 months
Application deadline
Funding source
The University of Surrey, Project-led Studentship Award.
Funding information
  • Full UK/EU tuition fee covered  
  • Stipend at £15,285 p.a. (2020/21)  
  • Research Training Support Grant of £1,000 p.a.  


Immunotherapy is transforming the outlook for people with previously untreatable advanced malignancies including melanoma and kidney cancers. It works by stimulating the immune system, so it better recognises and attacks cancer cells. However, this can also cause a severe auto-immune allergic reaction whereby the immune system attacks bodily organs such as the heart, liver, lungs, kidney and intestines. If this reaction is not identified and managed early it can result in poorer survival, reduced quality of life, and may be fatal.  The cause, onset, duration, severity and management of these immunotherapy-related adverse events (IRAE) differs from those induced by chemotherapy. Existing assessment adverse events measures were developed for people receiving chemotherapy and so are inadequate for monitoring people treated with immunotherapies. New or adapted PRO measures to monitor IRAE are urgently needed to help improve outcomes for people with advanced renal and melanoma cancers. This PhD will co-design a patient reported outcome (PRO). 


It will comprise three stages:   

  1. Evidence Review:  
    To find out which immunotherapy side-effects we will need to assess. Results will inform development of a list of potential side-effects measurable using PROs.  
  2. PRO co-design 
    Working with people with experience of immunotherapy and clinicians, interviews and design workshops will be used to understand their experience, knowledge and generate ideas for the PRO content.
  3. Testing PRO content validity 
    We will test the prototype PRO content using “cognitive interviewing” which uses probing questions and asks interviewees to ‘think aloud’ whilst answering the PRO. 

Supervisory Team: 

Dr Jo Armes, Health Sciences, University of Surrey  

Dr Jenny Harris, Health Sciences, University of Surrey  

The project will involve mixed methods research and work closely with NHS partners in South East England. We are looking for a student who feels passionately about conducting supportive cancer care research, with a strong desire to engage in applied health research which has the potential to influence policy and practice. We are also looking for someone with excellent communication skills, experience in qualitative and quantitative research methodologies and an interest in developing cancer-related research. 

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree (upper second) in an appropriate discipline, but prior experience in research or health and social care is required. An MSc in an appropriate discipline is desirable.  

IELTS requirements: 7.0 or above (or equivalent) with 6.5 in each individual category. 

UK and  EU students are welcomed to apply.

How to apply

All applications should be sent through the PhD Health Sciences course page. To apply potential students should complete a cover letter demonstrating their interest in, and suitability for, the project. We would also like a CV detailing your previous research experience, and two academic references. Students will also be required to complete the application form for PhD programmes in health sciences at the University of Surrey. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application. 

Application deadline

Contact details

Jo Armes
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684553

Cancer cluster 

The student will be allocated office space within the School of Health Sciences (Kate Granger Building). The School is based in a modern, purpose built, state of the art teaching facility on the University of Surrey campus in Guildford. 

Recruitment will be from cancer centres across South-East England and so some travel will be required (where permitted). Some interviews may be undertaken via Teams. 


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