BACKGROUND: It is unknown if the implementation of an advance care planning (ACP) program is feasible in daily clinical practice for glioblastoma patients. We aimed to develop an ACP program and assess the preferred content, the best time to introduce such a program in the disease trajectory, and possible barriers and facilitators for participation and implementation.
METHODS: A focus group with health care professionals (HCPs) and individual semi-structured interviews with patients and proxies (of both living and deceased patients) were conducted.
RESULTS: All predefined topics were considered relevant by participants, including the current situation, worries/fears, (supportive) treatment options, and preferred place of care/death. Although HCPs and proxies of deceased patients indicated that the program should be implemented relatively early in the disease trajectory, patient-proxy dyads were more ambiguous. Several patient-proxy dyads indicated that the program should be initiated later in the disease trajectory. If introduced early, topics about the end of life should be postponed. A frequently mentioned barrier for participation was that the program would be too confronting, while a facilitator was adequate access to information.
CONCLUSION: This study resulted in an ACP program specifically for glioblastoma patients. Although participants agreed on the program content, the optimal timing of introducing such a program was a matter of debate. Our solution is to offer the program shortly after diagnosis but let patients and proxies decide which topics they want to discuss and when. The impact of the program on several patient- and care-related outcomes will be evaluated in the next step.
Patients with glioma present with complex palliative care needs throughout their disease trajectory. The life-limiting nature of gliomas and the presence of specific symptoms related to neurological deterioration necessitate an appropriate and early palliative care approach. The multidisciplinary palliative care task force of the European Association of Neuro-Oncology did a systematic review of the available scientific literature to formulate the best possible evidence-based recommendations for the palliative care of adult patients with glioma, with the aim to reduce symptom burden and improve the quality of life of patients and their caregivers, particularly in the end-of-life phase. When recommendations could not be made because of the scarcity of evidence, the task force either used evidence from studies of patients with systemic cancer or formulated expert opinion. Areas of palliative care that currently lack evidence and thus deserve attention for further research are fatigue, disorders of behaviour and mood, interventions for the needs of caregivers, and timing of advance care planning.