Welcome to the first issue of The Journal of Community and Supportive Oncology for this year. 2017 was a rollercoaster year for the oncology community, literally from day 1. January 1 saw the kick-off for participation in the MACRA [Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act] Quality Payment Program, and soon after came the growing concern and uncertainty around the future of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Health Care Act. Attempts during the year to repeal the ACA failed, but with the December passage of the tax bill came Medicare cuts and the repeal of the individual mandate, which will effectively sever crucial revenue sources for the ACA. Nevertheless, against that backdrop, there was a slew of exciting therapeutic approvals – some of them landmark, as my fellow Editor, Linda Bosserman, noted in her year-end editorial (JCSO 2017;15:e283-e290). As often happens, and as noted in the editorial, such advances come with concerns about the high cost of the therapies and their related toxicities, and the combined negative impact of those on quality and cost of care and patient quality of life. (QoL).
In this issue, 2 research articles examine bone metastasis in late-stage disease and their findings underscore the aforementioned importance of care cost and quality and patient QoL. Bone metastases are a common cause of pain in patients with advanced cancer. That pain is often associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and patient QoL will diminish if the pain is not adequately treated. Although radiotherapy is effective in palliating painful bone metastases, relief may be delayed and interim analgesic management needed. Garcia and colleagues (p. e8) examined the frequency of analgesic regimen assessment and intervention during radiation oncology consultations for bone metastases and evaluated the impact on analgesic management before and after implementation of a dedicated palliative radiation oncology service. They found that pain assessment and intervention were not common in the radiation oncology setting before establishment of the service and suggest that integrating palliative care within radiation oncology could improve the quality of pain management and by extension, patient well-being.
Patients with bone metastases are also at greater risk of bone fracture, for which they often are hospitalized at great cost. Nikkel and colleagues sought to determine the primary tumors in patients hospitalized with metastatic disease and who sustained pathologic and nonpathologic fractures, and to estimate the costs and lengths of stay for those hospitalizations (p. e14). The most common primary cancers in these patients were lung, breast, prostate, kidney, and colorectal – a novel finding in this study was that there were almost 4 times as many pathologic fractures from colorectal than from thyroid carcinoma. Patients hospitalized for pathologic fracture had higher billed costs and longer length of stay. The authors emphasize the importance of identifying patients at risk for pathological fracture based on primary tumor type, age, and socio-economic group; improving surveillance; and doing timely osteoporosis screening.
Therapeutic advances and the ensuing new options and combination possibilities are the substrate for our daily engagement with our patients. On page e53, Dr David Henry, the JCSO Editor-in-Chief, talks with Dr Kenneth Anderson of Harvard Medical School about advances in multiple myeloma therapies and how numerous therapy approvals have pushed the disease closer to becoming a manageable, chronic disease. On page e47, Jane de Lartigue describes the latest developments in the therapeutic targeting of altered metabolic pathways in cancer cells.
Also in this issue are new approval updates for abemaciclib as the first CDK inhibitor for breast cancer (p. e2) and the checkpoint inhibitors avelumab and durvalumab for metastatic bladder cancer (p. e5), a brief report on whether patient navigators’ personal experience with cancer has any effect on patient experience (p. e43), a research article on physical activity and sedentary behavior in survivors of breast cancer, and Case Reports (pp. e30-e42).