Comparing theory and non-theory based implementation approaches to improving referral practices in cancer genetics: a cluster randomised trial protocol

April Morrow, Emily Hogden, Yoon-Jung Kang, Julia Steinberg, Karen Canfell, Michael Solomon, James G. Kench, Anthony J. Gill, Tim Shaw, Nicholas Pachter, Bonny Parkinson, Luke Wolfenden, Gillian Mitchell, Finlay A. Macrae, Kathy Tucker, Natalie Taylor

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Background: Lynch syndrome (LS) is an inherited, cancer predisposition syndrome associated with an increased risk of colorectal, endometrial and other cancer types. Identifying individuals with LS allows access to cancer risk management strategies proven to reduce cancer incidence and improve survival. However, LS is underdiagnosed and genetic referral rates are poor. Improving LS referral is complex, and requires multisystem behaviour change. Although barriers have been identified, evidence-based strategies to facilitate behaviour change are lacking. The aim of this study is to compare the effectiveness of a theory-based implementation approach against a non-theory based approach for improving detection of LS amongst Australian patients with colorectal cancer (CRC). Methods: A two-arm parallel cluster randomised trial design will be used to compare two identical, structured implementation approaches, distinguished only by the use of theory to identify barriers and design targeted intervention strategies, to improve LS referral practices in eight large Australian hospital networks. Each hospital network will be randomly allocated to a trial arm, with stratification by state. A trained healthcare professional will lead the following phases at each site: (1) undertake baseline clinical practice audits, (2) form multidisciplinary Implementation Teams, (3) identify target behaviours for practice change, (4) identify barriers to change, (5) generate intervention strategies, (6) support staff to implement interventions and (7) evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention using post-implementation clinical data. The theoretical and non-theoretical components of each trial arm will be distinguished in phases 4-5. Study outcomes include a LS referral process map for each hospital network, with evaluation of the proportion of patients with risk-appropriate completion of the LS referral pathway within 2 months of CRC resection pre and post implementation. Discussion: This trial will determine the more effective approach for improving the detection of LS amongst patients with CRC, whilst also advancing understanding of the impact of theory-based implementation approaches in complex health systems and the feasibility of training healthcare professionals to use them. Insights gained will guide the development of future interventions to improve LS identification on a larger scale and across different contexts, as well as efforts to address the gap between evidence and practice in the rapidly evolving field of genomic research. Trial registration: ANZCTR, ACTRN12618001072202. Registered on 27 June 2018.

Original languageEnglish
Article number373
Number of pages12
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2019. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Lynch syndrome
  • Hereditary cancer
  • implementation
  • Theoretical Domains Framework
  • Behaviour change
  • Theoretical domains framework
  • Implementation

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