We launched a patient engagement strategy to facilitate research involvement of the retinoblastoma (childhood eye cancer) community in Canada. To inform our strategy, we aimed to uncover the experiences with retinoblastoma, knowledge of retinoblastoma and research engagement among retinoblastoma survivors and parents.
Focus groups were held in Toronto and Calgary, including both in-person and remote participants (via videoconference). Discussions centred on experience with retinoblastoma, knowledge of the disease and engagement with research. Focus group transcripts were evaluated by inductive thematic analysis.
Four focus groups (3 in Toronto, 1 in Calgary) were held with a collective total of 34 participants. Retinoblastoma had a substantial impact on the life of participants, but overall, patients reported being able to adapt and persevere. Experiential knowledge of retinoblastoma was identified as distinct from the theoretical knowledge held by their clinicians. Participants indicated they often acted as a knowledge broker, communicating information about the cancer to their social networks. Participants were willing to engage in research as partners, but recognized barriers such as time and appropriate training.
Patients view their experiential knowledge of retinoblastoma as valuable to improving care and directing research. There is a unique role for research engagement in meeting the educational needs of patients.

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