Conference Coverage

Palliative-rehab combo may improve QoL in newly diagnosed cancer patients



In patients with a new diagnosis of advanced cancer, an intervention that combined palliative care with rehabilitation helped improve quality of life, results of a randomized, single-center study suggest.

Patients had a significant improvement in their most pressing quality-of-life issues after participating in the intervention, which included individualized palliative care consultations and a patient/caregiver “school” of lectures, discussion, and physical exercise, investigators said.

These findings suggest that every patient facing an advanced cancer diagnosis should at least have an initial exploratory consultation with a specialized palliative care team, and should be offered not only the usual components of palliative care, but also cancer rehabilitation, said Lise Nottelmann, MD, of the department of oncology at Vejle Hospital in Denmark.

“We should be active as a health care system in approaching these patients and offering them this intervention, or at least a consultation exploring these aspects of quality of life,” Dr. Nottelmann said in an interview at the 2018 Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium.

The study by Dr. Nottelmann and her colleagues, presented at the symposium, comprised 301 patients with nonresectable solid tumors, including lung, gastrointestinal, prostate, and others. Those patients were randomly allocated to the palliative rehabilitation intervention or to standard care only.

Every patient participated in two consultations with a specialized palliative care team, and then had the opportunity for individualized contact with the team in a 12-week open contact period. They were also invited to participate in the school sessions, each of which included a 20-minute lecture on topics such as physical activity and good nutrition plus a 40-minute discussion period, followed by an exercise session.

Of the patients randomized to the palliative rehabilitation intervention, 26 participated only in the initial consultations, while 59 participated in the group program, and 47 had individual consultations, Dr. Nottelmann reported.

To measure quality of life, the investigators asked patients to identify a “primary problem” that corresponded to one of 12 scales in the EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaire related to physical and role functioning, emotional and cognitive functioning, or symptoms.

The primary endpoint of the analysis was improvement in QLQ-C30 scores at 12 weeks. The analysis was done on specific scales in the patients who identified a primary problem, combined with global QLQ-C30 scores for the remaining one-quarter of the patients who did not, Dr. Nottelmann said.

After 12 weeks, the patients in the intervention arm had a significant improvement versus the no-intervention arm as measured by a version of the EORTC QLQ-C30 questionnaire. The absolute between-group difference in scores was 3.0 (95% confidence interval, 0.0-6.0; P less than .047), according to researchers.

Starting palliative care earlier in the course of cancer, as done in this intervention, is an increasingly accepted practice, supported by large studies and recent clinical practice guidelines that recommend early integration of palliative care into the seriously ill patient’s care plan.

What was different about this intervention was the integration of rehabilitation aspects into palliative care, Dr. Nottelmann said in the interview. While not traditionally thought of as a component of palliative care, the concept of palliative rehabilitation is gaining ground, she said.

The goal of rehabilitative palliative care is to help individuals with life-limiting or terminal conditions actively self-manage their conditions so they can “live fully” and enjoy the best quality of life possible, according to Hospice UK, a national charity for hospice care in the United Kingdom.

The symposium was cosponsored by AAHPM, ASCO, ASTRO, and MASCC. Dr. Nottelmann and her colleagues reported research funding from the Danish Cancer Society. Dr. Nottelmann had no disclosures related to the presentation. One coauthor provided disclosures related to Roche, Amgen, Bayer, and Merck Sharp & Dohme.

SOURCE: Nottelmann L et al. PallOnc 2018, Abstract 75.

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