Brno Clinical Center was invited to participate in the MyPal project because of their long-term participation in an international network and past involvement in numerous successful collaborations. In MyPal, Brno is the only one engaged in both the adult and child part of the study.

The history of the University Hospital goes back to 1934 when the city nursing home was founded.

Brno Nursing Home (1934)

Figure 1: Brno nursing home in 1934

Nowadays, University Hospital Brno resides in a large building complex consisting of more than 50 departments with a full range of clinical and laboratory specializations (Fig. 2). University Hospital Brno is the second largest hospital in the Czech Republic and is active in many national and also international professional networks. Patients of all ages are provided with specialized and super-specialized care in all medical branches using the most recent protocols and findings of medical science.

Adult medicine campus - University Hospital Brno

Figure 2: The Adult Medicine campus of the University Hospital Brno

The MyPal study is conducted at the Department of Internal Medicine, Haematology and Oncology (IHOK), located in the Adult Medicine campus, and at the Paediatric Oncology Department in the Children’s hospital.

IHOK offers full care for patients with disorders of blood-forming tissues and lymph nodes, mostly of oncological origin (i.e. leukaemia’s, lymphomas, and multiple myeloma, but also others) and patients with solid tumours. Another main field of interest is the diagnostics and therapy of connective tissue diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus erythematosus, etc.) and bone metabolic diseases. All diagnostic and therapeutic procedures including nursing care for patients with these diagnoses are performed at IHOK. Stem cell and bone marrow transplantations are carried out at IHOK under an accreditation by European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT). Supportive oncological treatment reaches a very high level and the involved personnel also provides consultations for other departments.

IHOK offers graduate and postgraduate education for students from the Masaryk University School of Medicine, the Institute for Continuing Medical Education, and nursing schools. Our research programme focuses on leukaemia’s, lymphomas, and myeloma, opportunistic infections, stem cell transplantations, novel pharmacological therapeutic approaches and supportive treatment in oncology.

An interview with Petr Lokaj (Fig. 3), a key clinician for palliative care in the Children’s hospital

Petr Lokaj caring for a patient

Figure 3: Petr Lokaj taking care of patients at the Department of Paediatric Oncology, University Hospital Brno (photo credit: Milan Jaroš).

Can you tell us something about the history of your department that is involved in MyPal?

In 1998, within the University Hospital, the Department of Paediatric Oncology was founded (Fig. 4). At that time, it was the second biggest and most important center offering specialized care in the Czech Republic. Every year, more than 120 children are diagnosed with cancer in Brno. The clinic performs paediatric oncological diagnostics, differential diagnostics as well as a complex treatment of cancer in patients aged 0-19 years. In 2006, a newly built transplant unit for autologous and allogeneic transplants was launched. In 2007, services of so-called Home Hospice were enabled for  terminally ill patients to have home care.

Brno Children's Hospital

Figure 4: Children’s Hospital – an integral part of the University Hospital Brno

What research projects have you participated in in the past? What is your role in MyPal? 

So far, I have been involved in research projects that directly impacted on the quality of patient care, such as introducing new treatment options relevant to a complex oncologic care. My main professional interest lies in palliative care.

As a physician who, among other things, deals with palliative care of oncologic patients, I will be responsible for selecting children patients eligible for the study. In cooperation with my colleague Jana Didi, my main role will be to introduce the MyPal app and the game to the children and their parents and be at hand if they need any help. Also, and that is a crucial point, I will be ready to deal with the actual problems and issues reported by the children during the game (ie. their symptoms) – which is what I would be doing anyway. The app might make the symptoms reporting more straightforward for the children.

Have you worked on any other projects related to digital health?

I am a man of the last century, a lover of old times. As exciting as it may be, the digital world is absolutely beyond me, as well as the concept of digital health. I am very much in favor of individual human face-to-face contact. However, I am very impatient to see whether (and how) the patients will benefit from our project!

Why have you decided to participate in the MyPal project?

In the Czech Republic, my team and I are regarded as the flagship of modern home palliative care, which is why we were invited to participate in the MyPal study. I am becoming more and more aware that many children and teenagers these days prefer the digital world and technologies to classic books and storytelling. Therefore, I got a feeling that the MyPal study might be exactly the right thing for them to share their feelings and to communicate better to people near them.

What are your expectations of the MyPal project? Are there any challenges you anticipate? Is there a way to overcome it?

I wouldn’t use the word “expectations”, I do remain curious, though. My biggest concern is parents and their children becoming estranged from each other. Instead of playing or reading together and enjoying each other’s company, they will spend their free time separately, using an electronic application and reporting their symptoms online. After all, no child is an island 😊

Other members involved in the MyPal team:

Prof. Michael Doubek, MD, PhD (Fig. 5)

A senior physician, well recognized by the European community. He is responsible for patient recruitment into the MyPal study at IHOK. His main work interests are acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (treatment, minimal residual disease), chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (treatment, prognostic factors), aplastic anaemia, myeloproliferative disorders, immune thrombocytopenia, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, flow cytometry in haematology, and clinical genetics. He is the head od the Czech CLL Study Group.

Apart from treating and dealing with patients diagnosed with haematological malignancies, he is a man of many hobbies. He even writes books and flies airplanes! 😊

Prof. Michael Doubek

Figure 5: Prof. Michael Doubek

Robert Mazur, MD (Fig. 6)

Robert Mazur is a junior physician, focused on the palliative care. He has been devoting his professional interest to palliative care ever since his studies. In the MyPal project, he will be the one dealing with patients personally, taking care of their needs, and trying to alleviate their symptoms reported by the app. He chose to be involved in the project because he wanted to be close to patients in terminal stages of their diseases, since these patients are, in his view, often neglected and overlooked in the Czech medical health care. His main non-working interests are beekeeping and mountain hiking.

Robert Mazur

Figure 6: Robert Mazur