Background music can be used to distract from ordinary sounds and improve wellbeing in patient care areas. Little is known about individuals' attitudes and beliefs about music versus ordinary sound in this setting.
To assess the preferences of patients, caregivers and healthcare providers regarding background music or ordinary sound in outpatient and inpatient care areas, and to explore their attitudes and perceptions towards music in general.
All participants were exposed to background music in outpatient or inpatient clinical settings. 99 consecutive patients, 101 caregivers and 65 out of 70 eligible healthcare providers (93%) completed a survey about music attitudes and preferences. The primary outcome was a preference for background music over ordinary sound in patient care areas.
Preference for background music was high and similar across groups (70 patients (71%), 71 caregivers (71%) and 46 providers (71%), p=0.58). The three groups had very low disapproval for background music in patient care areas (10%, 9% and 12%, respectively; p=0.91). Black ethnicity independently predicted lower preference for background music (OR: 0.47, 95%CI: 0.23, 0.98). Patients, caregivers and providers reported recent use of music for themselves for the purpose of enjoyment (69%, 80% and 86% respectively p=0.02). Age, gender, religion and education level significantly predicted preferences for specific music styles.
Background music in patient care areas was preferred to ordinary sound by patients, caregivers and providers. Demographics of the population are strong determinants of music style preferences.
To determine the effects of thalidomide and placebo on anorexia-cachexia and its related symptoms, body composition, resting metabolic rate, and serum cytokines and their receptors in patients with advanced cancer.
Included in the study were patients with advanced cancer with weight loss greater than 5% in 6 months and who reported anorexia, fatigue, and one of the following: anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances. Patients on chemotherapy within 2 weeks prior or during the study were excluded from the study. Patients were randomly assigned to either 100 mg thalidomide or placebo once a day for 14 days. The Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), Functional Assessment of Anorexia/Cachexia Therapy (FAACT), Functional Assessment of Cancer Illness Therapy (FACIT-F), Hospital Anxiety Depression Scale (HADS) Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) were utilized, and in addition body composition, Resting Energy Expenditure (REE), and serum cytokine levels were assessed.
Of the 31 patients entered in the study, 15 were assigned to the thalidomide group and 16 to the placebo group. However only 21/31 patients were able to complete the study. Compared with their baseline values, both the thalidomide and the placebo groups showed significant reduction in cytokines. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α (p=0.04) and its receptors TNFR1 (p=0.04), TNFR2 (p=0.04), and interleukin (IL)-8 (p=0.04) were statistically significant in the thalidomide group. In the placebo group, TNF-α (p=0.008), TNFR1 (p=0.005), TNFR2 (p=0.005), IL-RA (p=0.005), IL-6 (p=0.005), and IL-8 (p=0.005) were statistically significant. However, improvement in these symptoms and cytokine levels were not significantly different in the thalidomide group compared with the placebo group. None of the patients withdrew from the study because of toxicity of either thalidomide or placebo.
Based on the poor accrual rate and attrition observed in this study, it is important that future research on thalidomide as a treatment for cancer-related anorexia-cachexia symptoms (ACS) in patients with advanced cancer use less stringent entry criteria and less exhaustive outcome measures.
Breast cancer patients with a pathologic complete response (pCR) to neoadjuvant chemotherapy were compared with nonresponding controls to evaluate associations among a pCR, survival outcomes, and sarcopenia as well as the combination of sarcopenia and a high body mass index (BMI). Overweight patients had a lower pCR rate and shorter progression-free survival time. Among patients with a normal BMI, the pCR rate was better in sarcopenic patients.
Overweight women diagnosed with breast cancer have greater recurrence and mortality risks. Recent studies in advanced cancer showed that the combination of sarcopenia and an overweight or obese body mass index (BMI) is associated with poor clinical outcomes.
To compare pathological complete response (pCR) cases with controls and evaluate associations among a pCR, survival outcome, and sarcopenia as well as the combination of both sarcopenia and a BMI ≥25 kg/m2.
Sixty-seven breast cancer patients with a pCR to neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NC) were matched with controls who did not have a pCR to NC. Patients were matched by age, Black's nuclear grading system, clinical cancer stage, and estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor status. Body composition was analyzed using computed tomography images taken prior to NC.
BMI was associated with pCR. Among normal weight patients, the pCR rate was higher in sarcopenic patients and the progression-free survival (PFS) interval was significantly longer than in overweight or obese BMI patients. The death hazard was 2% higher for each unit higher skeletal muscle index and 0.6% higher for each unit higher visceral adipose tissue.
Overweight patients treated with NC had a lower pCR rate and shorter PFS time. Among patients with a normal BMI, the pCR rate was better in sarcopenic patients. More research is required to evaluate the negative impact of sarcopenic obesity on prognosis and the contributors to better response rates in operable, normal weight breast cancer patients with sarcopenia.
Breast cancer; Body composition; Clinical outcome
Cancer pain initiatives recommend using the personalized pain goal (PPG) to tailor pain management. This study was conducted to examine the feasibility and stability of PPG, and how it compares to the clinical pain response criteria.
Records of 465 consecutive cancer patients seen in consultation at the Supportive Care Clinic were reviewed. Pain relief was assessed as clinical response (≥30% or ≥2 point pain reduction), and PPG-response (pain≤PPG).
152 (34%), 95 (21%), and 163 (37%) patients presented with mild (1-4), moderate (5-6), and severe (7-10) pain, respectively. Median age (59 years), males(52%), advanced cancer status (84%) did not differ by pain category. Median PPG at initial clinic consult was 3 (interquartile range 2-3), similar across pain groups, and remained unchanged (p=0.57) at follow-up (median 14 days). Clinical response was higher among patients with severe pain (60%) as compared to moderate (40%) and mild pain (33%, p<0.001). PPG-response was higher among patients with mild pain (63%) as compared to moderate (44%) and severe pain (27%, p< 0.001). Using PPG-response as gold standard for pain relief, the sensitivity of clinical response was highest (98%) among patients with severe pain, but had low specificity (54%). In patients with mild pain, clinical response was most specific for pain relief (98%), but had low sensitivity (52%).
PPG is a simple patient reported outcome for pain goals. Majority of patients were capable of stating their desired level for pain-relief. The median PPG was 3, and it was highly stable at follow-up assessment.
Acute palliative care units (APCUs) provide intensive symptom support and transition of care for advanced cancer patients. Better understanding of the predictors of in-hospital mortality is needed to facilitate program planning and patient care. In this prospective study, we identified predictors of APCU mortality, and developed a four-item In-hospital Mortality Prediction in Advanced Cancer Patients (IMPACT) predictive model.
Between April and July 2010, we documented baseline demographics, the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), 80 clinical signs including known prognostic factors, and 26 acute complications on admission in consecutive APCU patients. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors for inclusion in a nomogram, which was cross-validated with bootstrap analysis.
Among 151 consecutive patients, the median age was 58, 13 (9%) had hematologic malignancies, and 52 (34%) died in the hospital. In multivariate analysis, factors associated with in-hospital mortality were advanced education (odds ration [OR]=11.8, p=0.002), hematologic malignancies (OR=8.6, p=0.02), delirium (OR=4.3, p=0.02), and high ESAS global distress score (OR=20.8, p=0.01). In a nomogram based on these four factors, total scores of 6, 10, 14, 17, and 21 corresponded to a risk of death of 10%, 25%, 50%, 75%, and 90%, respectively. The model has 92% sensitivity and 88% specificity for predicting patients at low/high risk of dying in the hospital, and a receiver-operator characteristic curve concordance index of 83%.
Higher education was associated with increased utilization of the interdisciplinary palliative care unit until at the end of life. Patients with higher symptom burden, delirium, and hematologic malignancies were also more likely to require APCU care until death.
The authors comment on the discussions of their work published in a recent issue of The Oncologist.
Opioid dose escalation may cause hyperalgesia, mediated by the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) pathway. Methadone is an atypical opioid that inhibits hyperalgesia through NMDA-blockade, especially at low doses.
To evaluate the efficacy of using very-low-dose methadone as the sole long-acting opioid agent in a hospice practice.
A retrospective, observational study of the use of methadone, ≤15 mg daily, with as-needed short-acting opiates. Adjuvant nonopioid medications included haloperidol, which may have NMDA-blocking effects.
We reviewed the records of 240 patients admitted to a community-based hospice from July 1, 2011 to April 1, 2012, with data collected until hospice discharge or until April 30, 2012.
Descriptive statistics were used to summarize patient demographics, medication regimens, and reported pain scores measured on a numeric rating scale from 0 to 10.
All patients received short-acting opiates, in a morphine-equivalent dose of 5 mg every 4 hours as needed, while 40% also received methadone at a median daily dose of 5 mg. Of those on methadone, almost half received scheduled haloperidol. The population had a median reported pain score of 0 and a peak score of 3, with similar results seen for cancer and noncancer groups. Two-thirds of patients never reported a pain score greater than 3.
The use of very-low-dose methadone in conjunction with adjuvant haloperidol resulted in excellent pain control without dose escalation or opioid-induced hyperalgesia, for both cancer and noncancer diseases. We conclude that low-dose methadone should be part of first-line treatment in palliative pain management.
This study aimed to review quantitative literature pertaining to studies of music-based interventions in palliative cancer care and to review the neurobiological literature that may bare relevance to the findings from these studies.
A narrative review was performed, with particular emphasis on RCTs, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews. The Cochrane Library, Ovid, PubMed, CINAHL Plus, PsycINFO, and ProQuest were searched for the subject headings music, music therapy, cancer, oncology, palliative care, pain, anxiety, depression, mood, quality of life, prevalence, neuroscience, functional imaging, endogenous opioids, GABA, 5HT, dopamine, and permutations of these same search terms. Data for the review were comprised of articles published between 1970 and 2012. References of all the cited articles were also reviewed.
Available evidence suggests that music-based interventions may have a positive impact on pain, anxiety, mood disturbance, and quality of life in cancer patients. Advances in neurobiology may provide insight into the potential mechanisms by which music impacts these outcomes.
More research is needed to determine what subpopulation of cancer patients is most likely to respond to music-based interventions, what interventions are most effective for individual outcomes, and what measurement parameters best gauge their effectiveness.
Music; Cancer; Oncology; Palliative; Neurobiology
Responding to growing concerns regarding the safety, quality, and efficacy of cancer care in the United States, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences commissioned a comprehensive review of cancer care delivery in the US healthcare system in the late 1990s. The National Cancer Policy Board (NCPB), a twenty-member board with broad representation, performed this review. In its review, the NCPB focused on the state of cancer care delivery at that time, its shortcomings, and ways to measure and improve the quality of cancer care. The NCPB described an ideal cancer care system, where patients would have equitable access to coordinated, guideline-based care and novel therapies throughout the course of their disease. In 1999, the IOM published the results of this review in its influential report, Ensuring Quality Cancer Care. This report outlined ten recommendations, which, when implemented, would: 1) improve the quality of cancer care; 2) increase our understanding of quality cancer care; and, 3) reduce or eliminate access barriers to quality cancer care.
Despite the fervor generated by this report, there are lingering doubts regarding the safety and quality of cancer care in the United States today. Increased awareness of medical errors and barriers to quality care, coupled with escalating healthcare costs, has prompted national efforts to reform the healthcare system. These efforts by healthcare providers and policymakers should bridge the gap between the ideal state described in Ensuring Quality Cancer Care and the current state of cancer care in the United States.
Oncology Service; Hospital; Quality of Health Care; Benchmarking; Guideline Adherence; Medically Uninsured; Palliative Care; Comparative Effectiveness Research
In the U.S., patients with advanced cancer who are dehydrated or have decreased oral intake virtually always receive parenteral hydration in acute care facilities but rarely in the hospice setting.
To describe the meaning of hydration for terminally ill cancer patients in home hospice care and for their primary caregivers.
Phenomenological interviews were conducted at two time points with 85 patients and 84 caregivers enrolled in a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial examining the efficacy of parenteral hydration in patients with advanced cancer receiving hospice care in the southern U.S. Transcripts were analyzed hermeneutically by the interdisciplinary research team until consensus on the theme labels was reached.
Patients and their family caregivers both saw hydration as meaning hope and comfort. Hope was the view that hydration might prolong a life of dignity and enhance quality of life by reducing symptoms such as fatigue and increasing patients’ alertness. Patients and caregivers also described hydration as improving patients’ comfort by reducing pain, enhancing the effectiveness of pain medication, and nourishing the body, mind and spirit.
These findings differ from traditional hospice beliefs that dehydration enhances patient comfort given that patients and their families in the study viewed fluids as enhancing comfort, dignity and quality of life. Discussion with patients and families about their preferences for hydration may help tailor care plans to meet specific patient needs.
Parenteral hydration; advanced cancer; hospice; qualitative; caregivers
Clinicians typically rely on their own or the nurses' clinical impression (NI) of symptoms rather than patient self-reports. It is unclear whether these means of assessment yield similar results.
To prospectively compare patient-reported symptoms on a modified Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) with NI scores.
Consecutive patients with advanced cancer admitted to our acute palliative care unit between April and July 2010 were studied. We collected the results of the ESAS on the day of admission (D1) to the unit and 2 days later (D3). We also collected the NI of each patient's physical and psychological distress on D1 and D3.
One hundred eighteen patients completed the ESAS on D1 and 116 on D3. On D1 there was no significant association between NI score and ESAS assessment except for dyspnea, which was weakly correlated with NI score for physical distress (r=0.22, p=0.02). The median ESAS physical and psychosocial scores were 31 and 12 in patients with NI of low or no physical distress, versus 34 (p=0.07) and 15 (p=0.18) in patients with NI of moderate or severe distress, respectively. On D3, we found a significant association between ESAS and NI only for pain (r=0.32, p<0.001) and anxiety (r=0.30, p=0.001). Sensitivity and specificity of the NIs for ESAS scores were low on both days.
The clinical impression of highly trained palliative care nurses showed poor association with patient-reported symptom intensity. Validated symptom assessment tools are needed for bedside clinical assessment.
Effective management of symptoms in cancer patients requires early intervention. We assessed whether the timing of referral to the Supportive Care Center (SCC) and symptom burden outcome varied by race or ethnicity in lung cancer patients who had been seen at a tertiary cancer center.
Non-Hispanic white (n=752), Hispanic (n=111) and non-Hispanic black (n=117) patients with non-small cell lung cancer comprised our sample. Data on sociodemographic factors, stage of disease, comorbid conditions, and symptom severity (pain, depressed mood, fatigue) served as potential predictor variables.
While the mean time (15 months; median=7 months) from initial presentation at the cancer center to referral to the SCC did not vary by race or ethnicity, we found that Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks had higher symptom burden when they first presented at the cancer center than non-Hispanic whites. Severe pain, depressed mood, and fatigue were significant predictors for early referral (< 7 months) of non-Hispanic whites, but only severe fatigue (P < 0.05) was predictive of early referral for Hispanics and non-Hispanic blacks. Furthermore, while the proportion of non-Hispanic white patients reporting severe pain, depressed mood, and fatigue significantly decreased (P < 0.001) at first follow-up visit after referral to the SCC; among Hispanics, improvement was only observed for depressed mood. No improvement in any of these symptoms was observed for non-Hispanic blacks.
While the timing of referral to supportive services did not vary by race, disparities in symptom burden outcomes persist. Additional studies are needed to validate our findings.
A case presentation is used to discuss the impact of early palliative care access in light of the currently available evidence and ways to improve early access to palliative care through education and research are recommended.
After completing this course, the reader will be able to:
Discuss the impact of early access to palliative care service on symptom control, quality of life, and cost of care.Formulate strategies to improve early palliative care access through education and research.
This article is available for continuing medical education credit at CME.TheOncologist.com
Cancer patients develop severe physical and psychological symptoms as a result of their disease and treatment. Their families commonly suffer great emotional distress as a result of caregiving. Early palliative care access can improve symptom control and quality of life and reduce the cost of care. Preliminary results show that early palliative care access can also extend survival. Unfortunately, only a minority of cancer centers in the U.S. have the two most important resources for palliative care delivery: outpatient palliative care centers and inpatient palliative care units. In this article, we use a case presentation to discuss the impact of early palliative care access in light of the currently available evidence, and we recommend ways to improve early access to palliative care through education and research.
Early palliative care; Efficacy of palliative care; Symptom control; Cost of care; Quality care; Supportive care
Parenteral hydration at the end of life is controversial and has generated considerable debate for decades.
To identify palliative care physician parenteral hydration prescribing patterns and the factors that influence prescribing levels for patients during their last weeks of life.
A cross-sectional, representative online survey of Latin American palliative care physicians was conducted in 2010. Physicians were asked to report the percentage of their terminally ill patients for whom they prescribed parenteral hydration. Predictors of parenteral hydration prescribing levels were identified using logistic regression analysis.
Two hundred thirty-eight of 320 physicians completed the survey (74% response rate). Sixty percent of physicians reported prescribing parenteral hydration to 40–100% of their patients during the last weeks of life. Factors influencing moderate/high prescribing levels were: agreeing that parenteral hydration is clinically and psychologically efficacious (odds ratio [OR] 3.5; 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.5 – 8.3), disagreeing that withholding parenteral hydration alleviates symptoms (OR 3.3, 95% CI 1.3 – 8.1), agreeing that parenteral hydration is essential for meeting the minimum standards of care (OR 3.2, 95% CI 1.4– 7.5), preferring the subcutaneous route of parenteral hydration for patient comfort and home use (OR 2.9, 95% CI 1.3 –6.5), and being younger than 45 years old (OR 2.6, 95% CI 1.3–5.2).
The strongest determinant of prescribing patterns was agreement with the clinical/psychological efficaciousness of parenteral hydration. Our results reflect parenteral hydration prescribing patterns and perceptions that substantially differ from the conventional/traditional hospice philosophy. These findings suggest that the decision to prescribe or withhold parenteral hydration is largely based on clinical perceptions and that most palliative care physicians from this region of the world individualize treatment decisions.
Parenteral hydration; palliative care; Latin America; physician survey
The prevalence of low serum vitamin D levels in cancer patients with fatigue or poor appetite and their association with symptom burden and other correctable endocrine abnormalities were investigated.
Vitamin D deficiency in noncancer patients is associated with symptoms of fatigue, muscle weakness, and depression. These symptoms are common among advanced cancer patients. We investigated the prevalence of low serum vitamin D levels in cancer patients with fatigue or poor appetite and their association with symptom burden and other correctable endocrine abnormalities.
This was a retrospective review of 100 consecutive cancer patients with appetite or fatigue scores of ≥4 of 10 referred to a supportive care clinic. We investigated serum levels of 25(OH) vitamin D, cortisol, thyroid-stimulating hormone, and bioavailable testosterone. Symptoms were measured by the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale. Serum 25(OH) vitamin D <20 ng/mL was considered deficient; ≥20 ng/mL and <30 ng/mL were considered insufficient.
Patients were predominantly male (68%) and white (66%), with a median age of 60 years (range, 27–91 years). Gastrointestinal (30%) and lung (22%) cancers were predominant. Forty-seven patients (47%) were vitamin D deficient and 70 (70%) were insufficient. Thirteen of 70 patients (19%) with vitamin D insufficiency were on supplementation. Vitamin D deficiency was more common among nonwhites (82% versus 36%) and females. No significant association was found between vitamin D and symptoms. Hypogonadic males had a significantly lower mean 25(OH) vitamin D level than eugonadic males.
Low vitamin D levels were highly prevalent among advanced cancer patients with cachexia or fatigue. Vitamin D deficiency was more frequent among nonwhite and female patients. Vitamin D levels were also significantly lower in male patients with hypogonadism.
Vitamin D; Testosterone; Cancer; Symptoms
The accuracy of probabilistic and temporal clinician prediction of survival for advanced cancer patients admitted to an acute palliative care unit were assessed and compared. Factors associated with prediction accuracy were identified.
Clinicians have limited accuracy in the prediction of patient survival. We assessed the accuracy of probabilistic clinician prediction of survival (CPS) and temporal CPS for advanced cancer patients admitted to our acute palliative care unit, and identified factors associated with CPS accuracy. Eight physicians and 20 nurses provided their estimation of survival on admission by (a) the temporal approach, “What is the approximate survival for this patient (in days)?” and (b) the probabilistic approach, “What is the approximate probability that this patient will be alive (0%–100%)?” for ≥24 hours, 48 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months. We also collected patient and clinician demographics. Among 151 patients, the median age was 58 years, 95 (63%) were female, and 138 (81%) had solid tumors. The median overall survival time was 12 days. The median temporal CPS was 14 days for physicians and 20 days for nurses. Physicians were more accurate than nurses. A higher accuracy of temporal physician CPS was associated with older patient age. Probabilistic CPS was significantly more accurate than temporal CPS for both physicians and nurses, although this analysis was limited by the different criteria for determining accuracy. With the probabilistic approach, nurses were significantly more accurate at predicting survival at 24 hours and 48 hours, whereas physicians were significantly more accurate at predicting survival at 6 months. The probabilistic approach was associated with high accuracy and has practical implications.
Prognosis; Probability; Neoplasms; Palliative care
The purpose of our retrospective study was to determine the frequency of undiagnosed alcoholism among advanced cancer patients referred to palliative care and explore the relationship with alcoholism, tobacco abuse, and use of illegal drugs.
We reviewed 665 consecutive charts and identified 598 patients (90%) who completed the CAGE questionnaire (Cut down, Annoyed, Guilty, Eye-opener) and 100 consecutive CAGE positive (CAGE+) and negative (CAGE−) patients. Tobacco and illegal drug use, Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale, and Morphine Equivalent Daily Dose (MEDD) were collected.
Frequency of CAGE+ in our palliative care population was 100/598 (17%). Only 13/100 (13%) among these CAGE+ patients were documented to have been identified as alcoholics prior to palliative care consultation. CAGE+ patients were younger (58.6 versus 61.3 years, p=0.07), predominantly male (68/100 versus 51/100, p=0.021), more likely to have a history of tobacco use (86/100 versus 48/100, p<0.001), be actively using nicotine (33/100 versus 9/100, p=0.02), and have a history of illegal recreational drug use (17/100 versus 1/100, p<0.001). Pain and dyspnea were worse in patients with a history of nicotine use. Both CAGE+ patients and patients with a history of tobacco use were more frequently on strong opioids at the time of palliative care consultation.
Our findings suggest that alcoholism is highly prevalent and frequently under-diagnosed in patients with advanced cancer. CAGE+ patients were more likely to have a history of, or actively engage in, smoking and illegal recreational drug use placing them at risk for inappropriate opioid escalation and abuse.
Alcoholism; Opioid Analgesics; Tobacco Use Disorder; Cancer; Substance Abuse
The aim of this study was to determine factors associated with the severity of cancer related fatigue (CRF) and predictors of improvement of CRF at the first follow-up visit in patients with advanced cancer referred to outpatient palliative care clinic (OPC).
We reviewed the records of consecutive patients with advanced cancer presenting to OPC. Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS) scores were obtained at the initial and subsequent visits between January 2003 and December 2008. All patients received interdisciplinary care led by palliative medicine specialists following an institutional protocol. Fatigue improvement was defined as a reduction of ≥2 points in ESAS score relative to the baseline. Descriptive statistics were used to summarize patient characterstics. Univariate analyses were performed and only significant variables were included in multivariate regression analysis to determine factors associated with severity and improvement in CRF.
A total of 1778 evaluable patients were analyzed (median age, 59 years; 52% male). The median time between visits was 15 days. Median fatigue scores on the ESAS were 6 at baseline and 5 at follow-up. Severity of all ESAS items and low serum albumin were associated with fatigue at baseline (p < 0.0001). The improvement of fatigue was observed in 586 patients (33%). The hierarchical model showed that fatigue improved over time (b = −0.009; p = 0.0009). low appetite (odds ratio [OR] = 1.09 per point; p = 0.0113) and genitourinary cancer (OR = 1.74 per point; p = 0.0458) were significantly associated with improvement of fatigue.
CRF is strongly associated with physical and emotional symptoms. Genitourinary cancer and low appetite at baseline were associated with successful improvement of fatigue.
Fatigue; Advanced cancer; Outpatient palliative care; Symptom control
Cancer cachexia is considered intractable, with few therapeutic options. Secondary nutrition impact symptoms (S-NIS) such as nausea may further contribute to weight loss by decreasing nutrient intake. In addition, treatable metabolic abnormalities such as hypogonadism, vitamin B12 deficiency, hypothyroidism, and hypoadrenalism could exacerbate anorexia and muscle wasting in patients with cancer cachexia. We determined the frequency and type of contributors to appetite and weight loss, and the effect of the cachexia clinic on clinical outcomes.
Review of 151 consecutive patients referred to a cachexia clinic. All received dietary counseling and exercise recommendations. Assessments included weight, body mass index (BMI), S-NIS, resting energy expenditure by indirect calorimetry, serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), cortisol, total testosterone, and vitamin B12.
Median weight loss in the 100 days before referral was 9% (4%–13%); median BMI at presentation was 20.8. Median number of S-NIS was 3 (2–4), most commonly treated by metoclopramide, laxatives, and antidepressants. Forty-one percent (24/59) of patients were hypermetabolic and 73% (52/71) of males hypogonadic, whereas hypoadrenalism (0/101, 0%), hypothyroidism (4/113, 4%), and low vitamin B12 (3/107, 3%) were uncommon. Poor appetite and weight loss before referral (r = 0.18, p = 0.036) were associated with increased S-NIS (r = 0.22, p = 0.008). Appetite improved (p < 0.001) and 31/92 (34%) of patients returning for a second visit gained weight.
Patients had a high frequency of multiple S-NIS, hypogonadism, and hypermetabolism. A combination of simple pharmacological and nonpharmacological interventions improved appetite significantly, and increased weight in one third of patients who were able to return for follow-up. Cachexia clinics are feasible and effective for many patients with advanced cancer.
The current state of palliative care in cancer centers is not known.
We conducted a survey to determine the availability and degree of integration of palliative care services, and to compare between National Cancer Institute (NCI) and non-NCI cancer centers in the United States.
Design, Setting, and Participants
Between June and October 2009, we surveyed both executives and palliative care clinical program leaders, where applicable, of 71 NCI cancer centers and a random sample of 71 non-NCI centers regarding their palliative care services. Executives were also asked about their attitudes toward palliative care.
Main Outcome Measure
Availability of palliative care services in the cancer center, defined as the presence of at least one palliative care physician.
We sent 142 and 120 surveys to executives and program leaders, with response rates of 71% and 82%, respectively. NCI cancer centers were significantly more likely to have a palliative care program (50/51 (98%) vs. 39/50 (78%), P=0.002), at least one palliative care physician (46/51 (90%) vs. 28/50 (56%), P=0.04), an inpatient palliative care consultation team (47/51 (92%) vs. 28/50 (56%), P<0.001), and an outpatient palliative care clinic (30/51 (59%) vs. 11/50 (22%), P<0.001). Few centers had dedicated palliative care beds (23/101 (23%)) or an institution-operated hospice (37/101 (36%)). The median reported durations from referral to death were 7 (Q1–Q3 4–16), 7 (Q1–Q3 5–10), and 90 (Q1–Q3 30–120) days for inpatient consultation teams, inpatient units, and outpatient clinics, respectively. Research programs, palliative care fellowships, and mandatory rotations for oncology fellows were uncommon. Executives were supportive of stronger integration and increasing palliative care resources.
Most cancer centers reported a palliative care program, although the scope of services and the degree of integration varied widely. Further efforts to consolidate existing infrastructure and to integrate palliative care in cancer centers are warranted.
We previously showed that select cytokine gene polymorphisms are a significant predictor for pain reported at initial presentation in 446 white patients newly diagnosed with non–small cell lung cancer. This follow-up study explores the extent to which polymorphisms in tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF- α-308 G/A), interleukin (IL)-6 −174G/C, and IL-8 −251T/A could explain variability in pain and analgesic response among those patients (n = 140) subsequently referred for pain treatment.
Pain severity (0, no pain; 10, worst pain) was assessed at initial consultation and at follow-up visit. The total dose of opioids at the time of first-follow up visit (30 days postconsult) was converted to an equivalent dose of parenteral morphine.
Forty-one percent (57 of 140) of the patients reported severe pain (score >7/10) at initial consultation (mean, 5.5), which significantly decreased to 25% (mean, 4) at first follow-up visit (McNemar = P < 0.001). Polymorphisms in TNF and IL-6 were significantly associated with pain severity (for TNF GG, 4.12; GA, 5.38; AA, 5.50; P = 0.04) and with morphine equivalent daily dose (IL-6 GG, 69.61; GC, 73.17; CC, 181.67; P = 0.004), respectively. Adjusting for demographic and clinical variables, variant alleles in TNFα −308 G/A remained significantly associated with pain severity (b = 0.226; P = 0.036) and carriers of the IL-6 −174C/C genotypes required 4.7 times higher dose of opioids for pain relief (odds ratio, 4.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.2;15.0) relative to GG and GC genotypes.
We provide preliminary evidence of the influence of cytokine genes on pain and response to analgesia in lung cancer patients. Additional studies are needed to validate our findings. The long-term application is to tailored pain therapies.
The Human Genome Project and HapMap have led to a better appreciation of the importance of common genetic variation in determining cancer risk, created potential for predicting response to therapy, and made possible the development of targeted prevention and therapeutic interventions. Advances in molecular epidemiology can be used to explore the role of genetic variation in modulating the risk for severe and persistent symptoms, such as pain, depression, and fatigue, in patients with cancer. The same genes that are implicated in cancer risk might also be involved in the modulation of therapeutic outcomes. For example, polymorphisms in several cytokine genes are potential markers for genetic susceptibility both for cancer risk and for cancer-related symptoms. These genetic polymorphisms are stable markers and easily and reliably assayed to explore the extent to which genetic variation might prove useful in identifying patients with cancer at high-risk of symptom development. Likewise, they could identify subgroups who might benefit most from symptom intervention, and contribute to developing personalised and more effective therapies for persistent symptoms.
The quantity, research design, and research topics of palliative oncology publications in the first 6 months of 2004 and 2009 were reviewed, and significant deficiencies were identified.
The current state of the palliative oncology literature is unclear. We examined and compared the quantity, research design, and research topics of palliative oncology publications in the first 6 months of 2004 with the first 6 months of 2009. We systematically searched MEDLINE, PsychInfo, EMBASE, ISI Web of Science, and CINAHL for original studies, review articles, and systematic reviews related to “palliative care” and “cancer” during the first 6 months of 2004 and 2009. Two physicians reviewed the literature independently and coded the study characteristics with high inter-rater reliability. We found a consistent decrease in the proportion of oncology studies related to palliative care between 2004 and 2009, despite an absolute increase in the total number of palliative oncology studies. Combining the two time periods, the most common original study designs were case report/series, cross-sectional studies, and qualitative studies. Randomized controlled trials comprised 6% of all original studies. The most common topics were physical symptoms, health services research, and psychosocial issues. Communication, decision making, spirituality, education, and research methodologies all represented <5% of the literature. Comparing 2004 with 2009, we found an increase in the proportion of original studies among all palliative oncology publications but no significant difference in study design or research topic. We identified significant deficiencies in the quantity, design, and scope of the palliative oncology literature. Further effort and resources are necessary to improve the evidence base for this important field.
Literature; Neoplasms; Palliative care; Research design
The purpose of this study was to identify factors associated with at-home death among patients with advanced cancer and create a decision-making model for discharging patients from an acute-care hospital.
Patients and Methods
We conducted an observational cohort study to identify the association between place of death and the clinical and demographic characteristics of patients with advanced cancer who received care from a palliative home care team (PHCT) and of their primary caregivers. We used logistic regression analysis to identify the predictors of at-home death.
We identified 380 patients who met the study inclusion criteria; of these, 245 patients (64%) died at home, 72 (19%) died in an acute-care hospital, 60 (16%) died in a palliative care unit, and three (1%) died in a nursing home. Median follow-up was 48 days. We included the 16 variables that were significant in univariate analysis in our decision-making model. Five variables predictive of at-home death were retained in the multivariate analysis: caregiver's preferred place of death, patients' preferred place of death, caregiver's perceived social support, number of hospital admission days, and number of PHCT visits. A subsequent reduced model including only those variables that were known at the time of discharge (caregivers' preferred place of death, patients' preferred place of death, and caregivers' perceived social support) had a sensitivity of 96% and a specificity of 81% in predicting place of death.
Asking a few simple patient- and family-centered questions may help to inform the decision regarding the best place for end-of-life care and death.