Timing of palliative care referral and symptom burden in phase 1 cancer patients

A retrospective cohort study

Authors

  • David Hui MD,

    1. Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Henrique Parsons MD,

    1. Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Linh Nguyen MD,

    1. Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Shana L. Palla MS,

    1. Department of Biostatistics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Sriram Yennurajalingam MD,

    1. Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Razelle Kurzrock MD,

    1. Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Eduardo Bruera MD

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
    • Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, Unit 008, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030
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    • Fax: (713) 792-6092


Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Phase 1 trials offer patients with advanced cancer the opportunity to pursue life-prolonging cancer treatments. In the current study, the timing of referral and symptom burden between patients referred to palliative care by phase 1 oncologists and those referred by non-phase 1 oncologists were compared.

METHODS:

All 57 patients with advanced solid tumors who were referred by phase 1 oncologists to the palliative care outpatient clinic at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC) between 2007 and 2008 were included. The comparison cohort was comprised of 114 non-phase 1 patients who were stratified by age, sex, and cancer diagnosis in a 1:2 ratio. Information regarding patient characteristics, Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale (ESAS), timing of referral, and survival was retrieved.

RESULTS:

Both cohorts had the following matched characteristics: average age of 57 years, with44% of the patients being female and 47% having gastrointestinal cancers. At the time of palliative care consultation, patients referred by phase 1 oncologists were more likely than patients referred by non-phase 1 oncologists to have a better performance status (Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group 0–1: 61% vs 36% [P = .003). The ESAS was not significantly different with the exception of better well-being in the phase 1 cohort (mean, 4.5 vs 5.5; P = .03). No difference was found for the duration between registration at MDACC and palliative care consultation (13 months vs 11 months; P = .41) and overall survival from the time of palliative care consultation (5 months vs 4 months; P = .69).

CONCLUSIONS:

Outpatients referred to palliative care by phase 1 oncologists were found to have a better performance status but similar symptom burden compared with patients referred by non-phase 1 oncologists. Patients with phase 1 involvement did not appear to have delayed palliative care referral compared with non-phase 1 patients. The results of the current study support the development of a simultaneous care model. Cancer 2010. © 2010 American Cancer Society.

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