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This article is the author’s final published version in JMIR Research Protocols, Volume 12, April 2023, Article number e46281.

The published version is available at Copyright © Liou et al.


Background: Cancer survivors represent one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. Unfortunately, nearly 1 in 3 survivors experience anxiety symptoms as a long-term consequence of cancer and its treatment. Characterized by restlessness, muscle tension, and worry, anxiety worsens the quality of life; impairs daily functioning; and is associated with poor sleep, depressed mood, and fatigue. Although pharmacological treatment options are available, polypharmacy has become a growing concern for cancer survivors. Music therapy (MT) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) are evidence-based, nonpharmacological treatments that have demonstrated effectiveness in treating anxiety symptoms in cancer populations and can be adapted for remote delivery to increase access to mental health treatments. However, the comparative effectiveness of these 2 interventions delivered via telehealth is unknown.

Objective: The aims of the Music Therapy Versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Cancer-related Anxiety (MELODY) study are to determine the comparative effectiveness of telehealth-based MT versus telehealth-based CBT for anxiety and comorbid symptoms in cancer survivors and to identify patient-level factors associated with greater anxiety symptom reduction for MT and CBT.

Methods: The MELODY study is a 2-arm, parallel-group randomized clinical trial that aims to compare the effectiveness of MT versus CBT for anxiety and comorbid symptoms. The trial will enroll 300 English- or Spanish-speaking survivors of any cancer type or stage who have experienced anxiety symptoms for at least 1 month. Participants will receive 7 weekly sessions of MT or CBT delivered remotely via Zoom (Zoom Video Communications, Inc) over 7 weeks. Validated instruments to assess anxiety (primary outcome), comorbid symptoms (fatigue, depression, insomnia, pain, and cognitive dysfunction), and health-related quality of life will be administered at baseline and at weeks 4, 8 (end of treatment), 16, and 26. Semistructured interviews will be conducted at week 8 with a subsample of 60 participants (30 per treatment arm) to understand individual experiences with the treatment sessions and their impact.

Results: The first study participant was enrolled in February 2022. As of January 2023, 151 participants have been enrolled. The trial is expected to be completed by September 2024.

Conclusions: This study is the first and largest randomized clinical trial to compare the short- and long-term effectiveness of remotely delivered MT and CBT for anxiety in cancer survivors. Limitations include the lack of usual care or placebo control groups and the lack of formal diagnostic assessments for psychiatric disorders among trial participants. The study findings will help guide treatment decisions for 2 evidence-based, scalable, and accessible interventions to promote mental well-being during cancer survivorship.

International registered report identifier (irrid): DERR1-10.2196/46281.

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