Early Palliative Care Beneficial in Metastatic Lung Cancer

Associated with better quality of life, longer survival in metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 18 (HealthDay News) -- For patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer, early palliative care is associated with longer survival and improvements in quality of life and mood, according to research published in the Aug. 19 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Jennifer S. Temel, M.D., of the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and colleagues analyzed data from 151 patients with recently diagnosed metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer who were randomized to receive standard oncologic care alone or with early palliative care.

One hundred seven patients survived to 12 weeks and completed assessments. The researchers found that those in the early palliative care group had better quality of life than those in the standard care group, with mean Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Lung scores of 98 and 91.5, respectively. They were also less likely to have depressive symptoms (16 versus 38 percent). In addition, palliative care patients were less likely to receive aggressive end-of-life care (33 versus 54 percent; P = 0.05), but they had longer median survival (11.6 versus 8.9 months).

"The new approach recognizes that life-threatening illness, whether it can be cured or controlled, carries with it significant burdens of suffering for patients and their families and that this suffering can be effectively addressed by modern palliative care teams. Perhaps unsurprisingly, reducing patients' misery may help them live longer. We now have both the means and the knowledge to make palliative care an essential and routine component of evidence-based, high-quality care for the management of serious illness," write the authors of an accompanying editorial.

Two co-authors disclosed financial relationships with a continuing medical education company, and one author disclosed financial ties to pharmaceutical companies.

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