Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP Protocol


Published: 02 April 2020

Version: 1

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Purpose of the PSP and background

The purpose of this protocol is to set out the aims, objectives and commitments of the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Priority Setting Partnership (PSP) and the basic roles and responsibilities of the partners therein. It is recommended that the Protocol is reviewed by the Steering Group and updated on at least a quarterly basis.

The James Lind Alliance (JLA) is a non-profit making initiative, established in 2004. It brings patients, carers and clinicians together in Priority Setting Partnerships (PSPs). These partnerships identify and prioritise uncertainties, or ‘unanswered questions’, about the effects of treatments that they agree are the most important. The aim of this is to help ensure that those who fund health research are aware of what really matters to both patients and clinicians. The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR – www.nihr.ac.uk) funds the infrastructure of the JLA to oversee the processes for priority setting partnerships, based at the NIHR Evaluation, Trials and Studies Coordinating Centre (NETSCC), University of Southampton.

Teenagers and young adults (TYA) aged 13 – 24 years old, who develop a cancer, are said to inhabit a unique “no-man’s land” placed between the health care systems mainly centred around children (paediatric oncology) or adults. These conditions that this group of young people develop are often different than those of adults or children, their physical, psychological and social responses to these life-threatening diagnoses are different, and the outcomes from the same malignancies are distinct; in some settings they have poorer survival than somewhat older adults and in some settings better outcomes. We know that TYA with cancer are less likely be involved in research than children, and that the specific aspects of the cancers they develop and the way common drugs that are used are handled by their bodies is less well understood than for children or older adults.

To encourage more research, which is focussed on the priorities set by TYA with cancer, the clinicians that work with them and the academic teams that research these areas, three charities have combined to fund a JLA priority setting partnership. These are Teenage Cancer Trust, Children with Cancer UK and CLIC Sargent.

The aim of the PSP is: To identify gaps and unanswered questions in research, the answers to which may reduce the individual and societal burden of young peoples’ cancer

The PSP will cover questions regarding any aspect of the prevention, diagnosis, treatment, management and care of young people who have been diagnosed with cancer between the ages of 13 and 24 years regardless of how old they are now. Submitted questions were accepted if they contained an unambiguous question which related to the reduction of individual or societal burden of TYA cancer, excluding questions aimed solely at research methodology. It was recognised that this is a very broad remit, and decisions may need to be made to further focus the scope of the PSP depending on the questions remaining after categorisation.

This accords with the initial statement that “The scope of the PSP may need revision to manage the submissions to deliver the priorities.”

Aims and objectives of the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP

The aim of the Teenage and Young Adult cancer PSP is to: Identify gaps and unanswered questions in research, the answers to which may reduce the individual and societal burden of young peoples’ cancer and then prioritise those that patients and clinicians agree are the most important.

The objectives of the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP are to:

  • work with patients and clinicians to identify gaps and unanswered questions about Teenage and Young Adult Cancer
  • agree by consensus a prioritised list of those gaps and unanswered questions, to aid translation into answerable research questions
  • publicise the results of the PSP and process
  • take the results to research commissioning bodies to be considered for funding.

The Steering Group 

The Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP will be led and managed by the following:

Patient representative/s:

Leila Hamrang
Arslaan Hussian
Amy Callaghan
Demi McGeachy
Charlotte Hutchinson
Max Williamson
Lara Veitch

Clinical representative/s:

Jeremy Whelan, Medical Oncologist
Sam Smith, Head of Nursing and Clinical Services (Teenage Cancer Trust Representative)
Bob Phillips, Paediatric Oncology Consultant
Sue Morgan, Consultant TYA Nurse
Mike Grozsmann, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist
Caroline Weston, CLIC Sargent Representative
Anna Carnegie, CLIC Sargent Representative
Karen Dyker, Clinical Oncologist
Rachel Hough, Haematologist
Helen Veitch, Head of Youth Support Co-ordinators

Faith Gibson, Researcher not steering group member
Lorna Fern, Researcher not steering group member
Susie Aldiss, Researcher not steering group member

The partnership and the priority setting process will be supported and guided by: The James Lind Alliance (JLA) Sheela Upadhyaya – JLA Adviser

The Steering Group includes representation of patient/carer groups and clinicians.

The Steering Group will agree the resources, including time and expertise that they will be able to contribute to each stage of the process. The JLA will advise on this.

The Wider Partners

Organisations and individuals will be invited to be involved with the PSP as partners. Partners are groups or individuals who will commit to supporting the PSP by disseminating the PSP survey and helping the PSP to gather unanswered questions of importance relating to the treatment and management of the health problem in question. Partners represent the following groups:

  • people who have been diagnosed with Teenage and Young Adult Cancer
  • friends, family and carers of people who have been diagnosed with Teenage and Young Adult Cancer
  • Medical doctors, nurses, therapists and other professionals with professional experience of Teenage and Young Adult Cancer.

It is important that all organisations which can reach and advocate for these groups should be invited to become involved in the PSP. The JLA Adviser will take responsibility for ensuring the various stakeholder groups are able to contribute equally to the process.

Exclusion criteria

Some organisations may be judged by the JLA or the Steering Group to have conflicts of interest. These may be perceived to adversely affect those organisations’ views, causing unacceptable bias. As this is likely to affect the ultimate findings of the PSP, those organisations will not be invited to participate. It is possible, however, that interested parties may participate in a purely observational capacity when the Steering Group considers it may be helpful. 

The methods the PSP will use

This section describes a schedule of proposed stages through which the PSP aims to fulfil its objectives. The process is iterative and dependent on the active participation and contribution of different groups. The methods adopted in any stage will be agreed through consultation between the Steering Group members, guided by the PSP’s aims and objectives. More details can be found in the Guidebook section of the JLA website at www.jla.nihr.ac.uk where examples of the work of other JLA PSPs can also be seen.

Step 1: Identification and invitation of potential partners

Potential partner organisations will be identified through a process of peer knowledge and consultation, through the Steering Group members’ networks. Potential partners will be contacted and informed of the establishment and aims of the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP and may be invited to attend and participate in an initial stakeholder meeting if this is being arranged.

Step 2: Initial stakeholder meeting / awareness raising

The initial stakeholder meeting / awareness raising will have several key objectives:

  • to welcome and introduce potential members of the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP
  • to present the proposed plan for the PSP
  • to initiate discussion, answer questions and address concerns
  • to identify those potential partner organisations which will commit to the PSP and identify individuals who will be those organisations’ representatives and the PSP’s principal contacts
  • to establish principles upon which an open, inclusive and transparent mechanism can be based for contributing to, reporting and recording the work and progress of the PSP.

Step 3: Identifying treatment uncertainties

Each partner will identify a method for soliciting from its member’s questions and uncertainties of practical clinical importance relating to the treatment and management of Teenage and Young Adult Cancer. A period to be agreed by the steering group will be given to complete this exercise.

The methods may be designed according to the nature and membership of each organisation, but must be as transparent, inclusive and representative as practicable. Methods may include membership meetings, email consultation, postal or web-based questionnaires, internet message boards and focus group work.

Existing sources of information about treatment uncertainties for patients and clinicians will be searched. These can include question-answering services for patients and carers and for clinicians; research recommendations in systematic reviews and clinical guidelines; protocols for systematic reviews being prepared and registers of ongoing research.

The starting point for identifying sources of uncertainties and research recommendations is NHS Evidence: www.evidence.nhs.uk.

Step 4: Refining questions and uncertainties

The Steering Group will need to have agreed exactly who will be responsible for this stage – the JLA can advise on the amount of time likely to be required for its execution. The JLA will participate in this process as an observer, to ensure accountability and transparency.

The consultation process will produce “raw” unanswered questions, gaps and unanswered questions in research, the answers to which may reduce the individual and societal burden of young peoples’ cancer. These raw questions will be assembled and categorised and refined by the data processing analyst into “collated indicative questions” which are clear, addressable by research and understandable to all. Similar or duplicate questions will be combined where appropriate.

Systematic reviews and guidelines will be identified and checked by the data processing analyst to see to what extent these refined questions have, or have not, been answered by previous research. Sometimes, uncertainties are expressed that can in fact be resolved with reference to existing research evidence - ie they are "unrecognised knowns" and not uncertainties. If a question about treatment effects can be answered with existing information but this is not known, it suggests that information is not being communicated effectively to those who need it. Accordingly, the JLA recommends strongly that PSPs keep a record of these 'answerable questions' and deal with them separately from the 'true uncertainties' considered during the research priority setting process. 

Uncertainties which are not adequately addressed by previous research will be collated and recorded on a template supplied by the JLA) by the data processing analyst. This will demonstrate the checking undertaken to make sure that the uncertainties have not already been answered. This is the responsibility of the Steering Group, which will need to have agreed personnel and resources to carry this accountability. The data should be submitted to the JLA for publication on its website on completion of the priority setting exercise, taking into account any changes made at the final workshop, in order to ensure that PSP results are publicly available.

Step 5: Prioritisation – interim and final stages

The aim of the final stage of the priority setting process is to prioritise through consensus the identified uncertainties relating to the gaps and unanswered questions in research, the answers to which may reduce the individual and societal burden of young peoples’ cancer. This will be carried out by members of the Steering Group and the wider partnership that represents patients and clinicians.

  • The interim stage, to proceed from a long list of uncertainties to a shorter list to be discussed at the final priority setting workshop (e.g. up to 30), may be carried out over email or online, whereby organisations consult their membership and choose and rank their top 10 most important uncertainties. There are examples of how other PSPs have achieved this at www.jla.nihr.ac.uk in the Key Documents of the Anaesthesia and Perioperative Care PSP section and the Childhood Disability PSP section.
  • The final stage, to reach, for example, 10 prioritised uncertainties, is likely to be conducted in a face-toface meeting, using group discussions and plenary sessions. Any uncertainties which do not make the ‘top 10’ list will be listed separately and made available for research.
  • The methods used for this prioritisation process will be determined by consultation with the partner organisations and with the advice of the JLA Adviser. Methods which have been identified as potentially useful in this process include: adapted Delphi techniques; expert panels or nominal group techniques; consensus development conference; electronic nominal group and online voting; interactive research agenda setting and focus groups.

The JLA will facilitate this process and ensure transparency, accountability and fairness. Participants will be expected to declare their interests in advance of this meeting.

Dissemination of findings and research

Findings and research

It is anticipated that the findings of the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer PSP will be reported to funding and research agenda setting organisations such as the NIHR and the major research funding charities. Steering Group members and partners are expected to develop the prioritised uncertainties into research questions, and to work to establish the research needs of those unanswered questions to use when approaching potential funders, or when allocating funding for research themselves, if applicable. 


As well as alerting funders, partners and Steering Group members are encouraged to publish the findings of the Teenage and Young adult cancer PSP using both internal and external communication mechanisms. The Steering Group may capture and publicise the results through descriptive reports of the process itself in Plain English. This exercise will be distinct from the production of an academic paper, which the partners are also encouraged to do. However, production of an academic paper should not take precedence over publicising of the final results. 

Out of Scope Topics/Questions

Topics/questions that are deemed out of scope will be reviewed by the Steering Group and a plan of how to address these will be captured in the final report. This may involve passing these questions onto other organisations to address.

Agreement of the Steering Group

Signed by the Steering Group

The undersigned agree to follow the Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Priority Setting Partnership Protocol.