New guidelines recommend that palliative care be integrated with standard cancer care

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) have published a provisional clinical opinion (PCO) which suggests that palliative care should play a larger role in standard cancer care, and that cancer patients should be offered palliative care earlier in their treatment.

The PCO is based on evidence from seven recently published randomised controlled trials which suggest that for some forms of cancer, patients benefit from being offered both palliative and standard oncologic care at initial diagnosis. Whilst this approach has not been definitively linked to better survival rates, the studies did show that it generally leads to “better patient and caregiver outcomes” and higher quality of life.

The guidelines highlighted the results of a recent trial by Temel et al, which indicated that patients recently diagnosed with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer who were given palliative care concurrently with standard treatment had fewer depressive symptoms and a longer median survival time from first diagnosis.

ASCO noted that whilst there is mounting evidence that this kind of combined care is beneficial, there are currently barriers to its implementation, including a dearth of health policy and reimbursement mechanisms. They also state that more palliative care doctors will be required to cope with the increasing demand.

Read the full report here.