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The Szalmuk Family Psycho-oncology Research Unit, established in 2008, strives to achieve real clinical research outcomes that can make a difference to people's lives. Our research interests range from cancer screening in the general population, treatment decision-making, psychosocial factors that influence adjustment to cancer, unmet needs of cancer patients and their families, psychosocial interventions for people affected by cancer and psychosocial factors in palliative care settings.

We welcome enquiries from potential Master, Doctoral and PhD research students wishing to undertake their research projects in the area of psycho-oncology.  Email enquires to

Currently we are involved in a range of collaborative research projects.

Topics include:
  • A pilot study of the Mindful Self Compassion program for cancer patients
  • The lived experience of parents in communicating their cancer diagnosis to their children - Learn More
  • Treatment information needs of individuals diagnosed with early stage non-small cell lung cancer
  • The development of a treatment decision making aid for men with early stage prostate cancer
  • Understanding the experiences and unmet needs of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • Meaning and Purpose (MaP) therapy in advanced cancer – a pilot randomized controlled trial
  • Interventions to support family communication when a parent has cancer - a systematic review
Completed research projects include :
  • Self-compassion in the context of cancer - a qualitative exploration of a brief group intervention - Learn More
  • Death anxiety interventions in patients with advanced cancer - a systematic review
  • Exploratory examination of the utility of demoralization as a diagnostic specifier for adjustment disorder and major depression - Learn More
  • Refinement and revalidation of the Demoralization Scale - Learn More
  • Introducing a model incorporating early integration of specialise palliative care:  A qualitative research study of staff's perspectives (a collaboration with staff from the Palliative Care Research Program)
  • The lived experiences of patients and carers in Cabrini's palliative home care service
  • Self-compassion and psychological health: The mediating role of emotion regulation difficulties
  • Understanding and measuring health literacy for caregivers of people with cancer
  • Exploring the factors predicting psychological distress in haematopoietic stem cell transplant patients
  • Post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic growth in women diagnosed with ovarian cancer
  • The information and supportive care needs of Australian, Greek and Italian men diagnosed with early stage prostate cancer
  • The impact of physical activity on the psychological well-being of men undergoing androgen deprivation therapy - Learn More
  • The lived experience of women who have gynaecological cancers - Learn More
  • Quality of life among individuals diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma - Learn More
  • An exploration of the experiences of volunteers in the Cabrini biography service - Learn More
  • Oncology patient wellbeing: mood, quality of life, and fatigue
  • Prostate specific antigen utility and PSA anxiety in the management of prostate cancer by active surveillance
  • Prostate specific antigen testing anxiety in men with prostate cancer or benign prostatic disease
  • Active surveillance for prostate cancer versus active treatment: comparing psychological profiles
  • Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: a post-treatment psycho-education program for women with breast cancer - Learn More
  • Assessing psychological distress in cancer patients


Research Fellow

Dr Jo Brooker 

Dr Jo Brooker is employed as a Research Fellow with the Szalmuk Family Psycho-oncology Research Unit. She also holds honorary positions in the Department of Psychiatry, Monash University and the School of Psychology, Deakin University. In addition, Jo is a member of the Psycho-Oncology Co-operative Research Group Scientific Advisory Committee and a founding committee member of the Mental Health Professionals Network Melbourne Psycho-oncology Interest Group.

Jo completed her PhD in the Psycho-oncology Research Unit, Monash University in 2010. Her thesis centred on factors associated with quality of life, anxiety, depression and treatment decision-making in people diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma.

In her role with the Szalmuk Family Psycho-oncology Unit Jo manages a wide range of research projects and supervises postgraduate research students undertaking projects on topics ranging from psychsocial interventions for cancer patients to treatment decision-making. Jo’s research interests include all aspects of psycho-oncology, particularly mindfulness and self-compassion interventions for people affected by cancer; unmet needs of cancer patients and carers; treatment decision making; and psychosocial aspects of palliative care.  Jo has published both quantitative and qualitative research papers in international peer-reviewed journals and is a named investigator on research funding grants exceeding $3 million.


Honorary Staff

Dr Sue Burney

Dr Sue Burney is the immediate past Head, Szalmuk Family Psycho-oncology Unit. In this role, Sue led numerous research and education projects in psycho-oncology and provided professional placement and research supervision of postgraduate psychology students from Monash, Deakin, Victoria, La Trobe and Australian Catholic Universities. Sue is also an Adjunct Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychological Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University and teaches at the Australian Catholic University and RMIT.  Over the past two years she has been involved in the update of the Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Psychosocial Care of Adults with Cancer.


Jane Fletcher


Current research students
  • Melissa Maas, Doctor of Psychology (Health), Deakin University
  • Gemma Stephenson, Master of Clinical Psychology, Victoria University