Early palliative care improves coping & quality of life for patients with incurable cancers

ScienceDaily | Published online: 7 September 2016.

A randomized clinical trial found that introducing palliative care shortly after a diagnosis of certain metastatic cancers greatly increases a patient’s coping abilities, as well as overall quality of life. Researchers also found that early integration of palliative care results in an increase in discussions about patient end-of-life care preferences.

The findings are part of a growing body of evidence demonstrating the benefits of palliative care on patient quality of life. This study will be presented at the upcoming 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium in San Francisco.

To explore the effects of early palliative care, researchers randomly assigned 350 patients, who had been recently diagnosed with incurable lung or non-colorectal gastrointestinal cancer, to receive early palliative care integrated with oncology care or oncology care alone.

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Prospective Quality of Life in Men Choosing Active Surveillance Compared to Those Biopsied but not Diagnosed with Prostate Cancer

Pham, K.N. et al. The Journal of Urology. August 2016. 196 (2).pp. 392–398

B0006629 Prostate cancer cells
Image source: Annie Cavanagh – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Image shows a colour-enhanced electron micrograph of a clump of prostate cancer cells.

Purpose: Active surveillance is an important alternative to definitive therapy for men with low risk prostate cancer. However, the impact of active surveillance on health related quality of life compared to that in men without cancer remains unknown. In this study we evaluated health related quality of life outcomes in men on active surveillance compared to men followed after negative prostate needle biopsy.

Materials and Methods: A prospective study was conducted on men who were enrolled into the Center for Prostate Disease Research Multicenter National Database and underwent prostate needle biopsy for suspicion of prostate cancer between 2007 and 2014. Health related quality of life was assessed at biopsy (baseline) and annually for up to 3 years using SF-36 and EPIC questionnaires. Health related quality of life scores were modeled using generalized estimating equations, adjusting for baseline health related quality of life, and demographic and clinical characteristics.

Results: Of the 1,204 men who met the initial eligibility criteria 420 had a negative prostate needle biopsy (noncancer comparison group). Among the 411 men diagnosed with low risk prostate cancer 89 were on active surveillance. Longitudinal analysis revealed that for most health related quality of life subscales there were no significant differences between the groups in adjusted health related quality of life score trends over time.

Conclusions: In this study most health related quality of life outcomes in patients with low risk prostate cancer on active surveillance did not differ significantly from those of men without prostate cancer. A comparison group of men with a similar risk of prostate cancer detection is critical to clarify the psychological and physical impact of active surveillance.

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An explorative study to assess the association between health-related quality of life and the recommended phase II dose in a phase I trial

Anota, A. et al. BMJ Open. 2016. 6:e010696

Image source: Nephron – Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 3.0

Image shows intermediate magnification micrograph of hepatocellular carcinoma

Objectives: The objective of this study was to explore the association between health-related quality of life (HRQoL) and the recommended phase 2 dose in a phase I clinical trial according to the Time to HRQoL deterioration approach (TTD).

Setting: This is a phase I dose-escalation trial of transarterial chemoembolisation (TACE) with idarubicin-loaded beads performed in cirrhotic patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Patients had to complete the EORTC QLQ-C30 HRQoL questionnaire at baseline and at days 15, 30 and 60 after TACE.

Participants: Patients aged ≥18 years with HCC unsuitable for curative treatments were evaluated for the study (N=21).

Primary and secondary outcome measurements: The primary objective was to determine the maximum tolerated dose (MTD) of idarubicin loaded after a single TACE session. MTD was defined as the dose level closest to that causing dose-limiting toxicity in 20% of patients. HRQoL was the secondary end point.

Results: Between March 2010 and March 2011, 9, 6 and 6 patients were included at idarubicin dose levels of 5, 10 and 15 mg, respectively. Calculated MTD of idarubicin was 10 mg. At the 10 mg idarubicin dose, patients presented a longer TTD than at 5 mg, for global health status (HR=0.91 (95% CI 0.18 to 4.72)), physical functioning (HR=0.38 (0.04 to 3.22)), fatigue (HR=0.67 (0.18 to 2.56)) and pain (HR=0.47 (0.05 to 4.24)).

Conclusions: These HRQoL results were consistent with the estimated MTD, with a median TTD for global health status of 41 days (21 to NA) at 5 mg, 23 days (20 to NA) at 10 mg and 25 days (17 to NA) at 15 mg. These results show the importance of studying HRQoL in phase I trials.

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Improving the quality of survivorship for older adults with cancer

Mohile, S. G. et al. Cancer. Published online: 12 May 2016

In May 2015, the Cancer and Aging Research Group, in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute on Aging through a U13 grant, convened a conference to identify research priorities to help design and implement intervention studies to improve the quality of life and survivorship of older, frailer adults with cancer. Conference attendees included researchers with multidisciplinary expertise and advocates. It was concluded that future intervention trials for older adults with cancer should:

1) rigorously test interventions to prevent the decline of or improve health status, especially interventions focused on optimizing physical performance, nutritional status, and cognition while undergoing cancer treatment;

2) use standardized care plans based on geriatric assessment findings to guide targeted interventions; and

3) incorporate the principles of geriatrics into survivorship care plans.

Also highlighted was the need to integrate the expertise of interdisciplinary team members into geriatric oncology research, improve funding mechanisms to support geriatric oncology research, and disseminate high-impact results to the research and clinical community. In conjunction with the 2 prior U13 meetings, this conference provided the framework for future research to improve the evidence base for the clinical care of older adults with cancer.

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The relationship between coping strategies, quality of life, and mood in patients with incurable cancer

Nipp, R.D. et al. Cancer. Published online: 18 April 2016

Background: Patients with incurable cancer face many physical and emotional stressors, yet little is known about their coping strategies or the relationship between their coping strategies, quality of life (QOL), and mood.

Methods: As part of a randomized trial of palliative care, this study assessed baseline QOL (Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–General), mood (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale), and coping (Brief COPE) in patients within 8 weeks of a diagnosis of incurable lung or gastrointestinal cancer and before randomization. To examine associations between coping strategies, QOL, and mood, we used linear regression, adjusting for patients’ age, sex, marital status, and cancer type.

Results: There were 350 participants (mean age, 64.9 years), and the majority were male (54.0%), were married (70.0%), and had lung cancer (54.6%). Most reported high utilization of emotional support coping (77.0%), whereas fewer reported high utilization of acceptance (44.8%), self-blame (37.9%), and denial (28.2%). Emotional support (QOL: β = 2.65, P < .01; depression: β = –0.56, P = .02) and acceptance (QOL: β = 1.55, P < .01; depression: β = –0.37, P = .01; anxiety: β = –0.34, P = .02) correlated with better QOL and mood. Denial (QOL: β = –1.97, P < .01; depression: β = 0.36, P = .01; anxiety: β = 0.61, P < .01) and self-blame (QOL: β = –2.31, P < .01; depression: β = 0.58, P < .01; anxiety: β = 0.66, P < .01) correlated with worse QOL and mood.

Conclusions: Patients with newly diagnosed, incurable cancer use a variety of coping strategies. The use of emotional support and acceptance coping strategies correlated with better QOL and mood, whereas the use of denial and self-blame negatively correlated with these outcomes. Interventions to improve patients’ QOL and mood should seek to cultivate the use of adaptive coping strategies

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Vitamin D and patients with palliative cancer

Björkhem-Bergman, L. & Bergman, P. BMJ Supportive & Palliative Care. Published Online: 15 April 2016

pill-316601_960_720Vitamin D is a hormone that is synthesised in the skin in the presence of sunlight. Sufficient vitamin D levels are important—not only for a healthy skeleton—but also for a healthy immune system.

Many patients with cancer have insufficient vitamin D levels, and low vitamin D levels are associated with increased ‘all-cause mortality’ and especially mortality due to cancer. Low vitamin D levels have also been associated with increased risk of infections, increased pain, depressive disorders and impaired quality of life.

We review the role of vitamin D in the immune system, in relation to cancer disease, pain and depression. We have recently performed an observational study in 100 patients with palliative cancer in Sweden.

The main result was that low vitamin D levels were associated with higher opioid dose, that is, more pain. We also describe a case report where vitamin D supplementation resulted in radically decreased opioid dose, less pain and better well-being.

Vitamin D supplementation is not connected with any adverse side effects and is easy to administrate. Thus, we hypothesise that vitamin D-supplementation to patients with palliative cancer might be beneficial and could improve their well-being, decrease pain and reduce susceptibility to infections. However, more clinical studies in this field are needed before firm conclusions can be drawn.

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Advance care planning – a multi-centre cluster randomised clinical trial

Rietjens, J. A. C. et al. BMC Cancer2016 16:264

Background: Awareness of preferences regarding medical care should be a central component of the care of patients with advanced cancer. Open communication can facilitate this but can occur in an ad hoc or variable manner. Advance care planning (ACP) is a formalized process of communication between patients, relatives and professional caregivers about patients’ values and care preferences. It raises awareness of the need to anticipate possible future deterioration of health. ACP has the potential to improve current and future healthcare decision-making, provide patients with a sense of control, and improve their quality of life.

Methods/Design: We will study the effects of the ACP program Respecting Choices on the quality of life of patients with advanced lung or colorectal cancer. In a phase III multicenter cluster randomised controlled trial, 22 hospitals in 6 countries will be randomised. In the intervention sites, patients will be offered interviews with a trained facilitator. In the control sites, patients will receive care as usual. In total, 1360 patients will be included. All participating patients will be asked to complete questionnaires at inclusion, and again after 2.5 and 4.5 months. If a patient dies within a year after inclusion, a relative will be asked to complete a questionnaire on end-of-life care. Use of medical care will be assessed by checking medical files. The primary endpoint is patients’ quality of life at 2.5 months post-inclusion. Secondary endpoints are the extent to which care as received is aligned with patients’ preferences, patients’ evaluation of decision-making processes, quality of end-of-life care and cost-effectiveness of the intervention. A complementary qualitative study will be carried out to explore the lived experience of engagement with the Respecting Choices program from the perspectives of patients, their Personal Representatives, healthcare providers and facilitators.

Discussion: Transferring the concept of ACP from care of the elderly to patients with advanced cancer, who on average are younger and retain their mental capacity for a larger part of their disease trajectory, is an important next step in an era of increased focus on patient centered healthcare and shared decision-making.

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