Web-based cognitive-behavioral disease management support program for young adult cancer survivors – a randomized controlled trial


young cancer patients, AYA-survivors, online writing therapy, anxiety symptoms, fear of disease progression, posttraumatic stress symptoms, web-based cognitive-behavioral support program, randomized controlled trial

Project Management

Scientific study supervision:

PhD Psychologist Kristina Geue (PI until end of April 2022)

Prof. PhD Psychologist Anja Mehnert-Theuerkauf (Co-PI  until end of April 2022; PI since May 2022)

University Hospital Leipzig, Department of Medical Psychology und Medical Sociology, Section Psychosocial Oncology


Clinical study supervision:

Prof. MD Jörg Fegert (CO-PI)

Prof. PhD Psychologist Miriam Rassenhofer (deputy)

University Hospital, Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry/Psychotherapy

Cooperation Partners

  1. Regional Clinical Cancer Register Leipzig (RKKRL)
  2. Clinic Bad Oexen
  3. Paracelsus-Klinik Am Schillergarten Bad Elster
  4. German Child Cancer Register
  5. Prof. PhD Rainer Muche, Ulm University, Medical Faculty, Institute for Epidemiology and Medical Biometry

Project Duration

01.07.2020 – 30.06.2023 (possible extension of 12 months: 1st July 2023 – 30th June 2024)

Background and aim of the project

Young cancer patients show a well above average chance of recovery compared to older patients. Young cancer patients’ psychological distress manifests especially as anxiety (primarily posttraumatic stress disorders), fatigue and depression. However, it has been shown during the past years, that specific needs for psychosocial support are either not adequately or not sufficiently met.  It is generally agreed that the conception, implementation, and evaluation of specific psychooncological care concepts are necessary.

However, there are barely any evidence-​based interventions targeting the psychosocial care of AYA-​survivors. The web-​based support program Onko-​STEP, targeting the reduction of anxiety in young cancer patients, was developed and successfully evaluated using a pre-​post-design. Onko-​STEP contains two modules: 1. “Looking back” (focused on traumatic disease experiences) and 2. “Looking forward” (focuses on development of coping strategies to deal with anxiety), with five writing exercises each.

Project description

The project aims to investigate the efficacy of Onko-​Step in a prospective randomized controlled trial, comparing intervention and control group. It is planned to include 172 participants with an increased general anxiety level in the RCT. The participants will be recruited via cancer registries, rehabilitation clinics, after care consultations and established social networks. The data collection will be conducted online via standardized procedures, at 4 measurement time points (t0: screening; t1: baseline – pre study inclusion/intervention; t2: after the intervention/waiting period; t3: follow-​up (3 months after t2)). Requirements for participation are: Fluent in German, current age: 18-39 yrs, cancer diagnosis between 15 and 39 yrs, time of diagnoses within the last 10 yrs, end of primary treatment: at least 6 month and Internet access and willingness to participate weekly. On the basis of a proof of concept we will be able to provide an adequate psychooncological support program for this group of patients after the study will have finished. We plan on creating structures for the firm implementation of Onko-​STEP as a time-​flexible and location-​independent web-​based support program. In doing so we plan on improving the psychosocial care of young adult cancer patients.

Interested people can register on www.onko-step.de


Publications and materials

  • Tutus D, Plener PL, Niemitz M. Qualitätskriterien internetbasierter kognitiv-behavioraler Interventionen für Kinder und Jugendliche sowie deren Eltern – Ein systematisches Review. Zeitschrift für Kinder- und Jugendpsychiatrie und Psychotherapie. 2018, 1–17.
  • Tutus, D, Plener, PL, Niemitz, M. Ulmer Onlineklinik Eine Plattform der Universitätsklinik Ulm für internetbasierte Psychodiagnostik und psychologische Onlineinterventionsprogramme. Psychotherapie im Dialog. 2018: 19, 71-75.
  • Leuteritz K et al. Life situation and psycho-social care of adolescent and young adult (AYA) cancer patients – study protocol of a 12-month prospective longitudinal study. BMC Cancer. 2017:17, 1-9.
  • Breuer N et al. How do young adults with cancer perceive social support? A qualitative study. J Psychosoc Oncol. 2017:35, 292-308.
  • Esser P et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder symptomatology in the course of allogeneic HSCT: a prospective study. J Cancer Surviv. 2017: 11, 203-210
  • Sachser C et al. Complex PTSD as proposed for ICD-11: validation of a new disorder in children and adolescents and their response to Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2017:58(2), 160-168.
  • Faller H et al. Perceived need for psychosocial support depending on emotional distres and mental comorbidity in men and woman with cancer. J Psychosom Res. 2016:81, 24-30.
  • Goldbeck L et al. Effectiveness of Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Tf-CBT) for Children and adolescents: a randomized controlled trial in eight German mental health clinics. Psychother Psychosom. 2016:85, 159-170.
  • Schmidt R et al. Motivations for having children after cancer – a systematic review of literature. Eur J Cancer Care. 2016:25, 6-17.
  • Fidika A et al. A web-based Psychological Support Program for Caregivers of Children with Cystic Fibrosis. A Pilot Study. Health Qual Life Outcomes. 2015:13:11.
  • Geue K et al. Sexuality and romantic relationships in young adult cancer survivors: satisfaction and supportive care needs. Psycho-Oncology. 2014:24(11), 1368-1376.
  • Richter D et al. Psychosocial interventions for adolescents and young adult cancer patients: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2015:95(3), 370-386.
  • Geue K et al. Gender-specific quality of life after cancer in young adulthood: a comparison with the general population. Qual Life Res. 2014:23(4), 1377-1386.
  • Mehnert A et al. Four-week prevalence of mental disorders in patients with cancer across major tumor antities. J Clin Oncol. 2014:32(31), 3540-3546.
  • Seitz DCM et al. Internet-based psychotherapy in young adult survivors of pediatric cancer: Feasibility and participants’ satisfaction. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2014:17, 624-629.
  • Seitz DCM et al. Efficacy of an internet-based cognitive behavioral intervention for long-term survivors of pediatric cacner: A pilot study. Support Care Cancer. 2014:22, 2075-2083.
  • Mehnert A et al. Prävalenz von Anpassungsstörung, akuter und posttraumatischer Belastungsstörung sowie somatoformen Störungen bei Krebspatienten. Ein systematisches Literaturreview und Metaanalyse. Psychother Psych Med. 2013:63(12), 466-472.
  • Geue K et al. Familienplanung junger onkologischer Patienten – Rolle im ärztlichen Gespräch. Psychotherapeut. 2011:56(5), 371-378.
  • Ladehoff N et al. Körperliche und psychosoziale Belastungen bei Jugendlichen und jungen Erwachsenen mi einer Krebserkrankung. Z Gesundheitspsychol. 2011:19(1), 43-64.
  • Seitz DCM et al. Life satisfaction in adult survivors of cancer during adolescence: What contributes to the latter satisfaction with life?. Qual Life Res. 2011:20, 225-236.

Contact Address

Funded by:

DKR Bearbeitungsnummern: 70113141 und 70113158