Purpose: As many as 20% of oncology patients receive chemotherapy in the last 14 days of their lives. This study characterized conversations between patients and cancer clinicians on chemotherapy cessation in the setting of advanced cancer.
Methods: This 3-site study captured real-time, audio-recorded interviews between oncology clinicians and patients with cancer during actual clinic visits. Audio-recordings were reviewed for discussion of chemotherapy cessation and were analyzed qualitatively.
Results: Among 525 recordings, 14 focused on stopping chemotherapy; 14 patients participated with 11 different clinicians. Two types of nonmutually exclusive conversation elements emerged: direct and specific elements that described an absence of effective therapeutic options and indirect elements. An example of a direct element is as follows: “…You know this is…always really tough…But I—I think that you may need more help…I think we’re close to stopping chemotherapy…And hospice is really helpful to have in place…” In contrast, the second conversation element was more convoluted: “…transplant is not an option and surgery is not an option…The options…are taking a pill…It doesn’t shrink the tumor…It may help you live a little longer. But I’m worried if [you] had the pill, it’s still a therapy and it still has side effects. I [am] worried if I give it to you now, that you’re so weak, it will make you worse.” No relationship seemed apparent between conversation elements and chemotherapy cessation.
Conclusions: Conversations on chemotherapy cessation are complex; multiple factors appear to drive the decision to stop.
Objectives:To describe the feasibility of a chaplain-led spiritually focused life review interview and the development of a spiritual legacy document (SLD) for patients with advanced diseases and to describe changes in spiritual well-being (SWB), spiritual coping strategies (SC), and quality of life (QOL) after receiving the SLD.
Patients and Methods: In all, 130 patients and support person (SP) pairs were recruited from July 2012 to January 2019. Following enrollment, demographic information was gathered and baseline questionnaires were administered. Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy'Spiritual Well-Being Scale (FACIT-Sp-12) and a linear analog scale assessment (LASA) measured SWB. LASAs also measured QOL and emotional well-being (EWB). Positive Religious Coping Scale (RCOPE) measured SC. After completion of baseline forms, participants were interviewed (individually) by a chaplain. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, and verified. Transcripts were edited and participants were given the opportunity to make adaptations. The participant-approved draft was then developed into a professionally printed SLD. Follow-up questionnaires were administered to assess change.
Results: Significant improvements from baseline to post-SLD follow-up were found for patients on the LASAs: SWB (average 7.7-8.3, P = .01), QOL (average 6.7-7.3, P = .03), EWB (average 6.9-7.5, P = .01), and on the positive RCOPE (average 1.8-2.0, P = .007). Effect sizes were approximately 0.25. Considering any improvement, 61.0% improved their positive RCOPE score, 46.6% improved EWB, and 39.7% improved SWB. No significant changes were found on the FACIT-Sp-12. No significant changes were found for SPs.
Conclusion: The results suggest that the primary participants who completed the study benefited by significantly increasing their QOL, SWB, EWB, and SC.
Objective: This study sought to understand the patients’ perspective of what contributes to an absence of discussions of sexual orientation (SO), gender identity (GI), and sexual health in cancer care.
Methods: Patients were recruited from oncology, gynecology, and a gender transition clinic to participate in semistructured interviews, which were analyzed with qualitative methods.
Results: A total of 25 patients were interviewed, shedding light on 2 themes. The first was that these conversations are important but infrequent. One patient explained, “…. we know people who have had sex changes…[they] would have appreciated that question.” In response to whether sexual health was ever brought up, one patient responded, “No doctor ever has.” Patients described unaddressed issues: “There have been times, you know, we’ve wondered if it was okay to make love.” The second theme consisted of 4 pragmatic, patient-provided points to facilitate discussions: (1) implementation of a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being comfortable) to first gauge patients’ comfort in talking about SO, GI, and sexual health; (2) having the health-care provider explore the topic again over-time; (3) making sure the health-care provider is comfortable, as such comfort appears to enhance the patient’s comfort (“I have a doctor here, a female doctor, who just matter of fact will ask if I get erections and so on because of the medication she’s giving me);” and (4) eliminating euphemisms (one patient stated, “I don’t know what you mean by ‘sexual health’.”).
Conclusion: Oncology health-care providers have a unique opportunity and responsibility to address SO, GI, and sexual health.
BACKGROUND: Although national organizations advocate that health-care providers ask patients about sexual health and sexual and gender minority status-to learn, for example, about side effects of treatment and to understand patients' social support-these conversations often do not occur. This study explored health-care providers' reasons for having/not having these conversations.
METHODS: This single-institution study recruited health-care providers from medical oncology, hematology, radiation oncology, and gynecology. Face-to-face interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed qualitatively.
RESULTS: Three main themes emerged: (1) patient-centric reasons for discussing/not discussing sexual health and sexual and gender minority status ("So I think just the holistic viewpoint is important"); (2) health-care provider-centric reasons for discussing/not discussing these issues ("That's going to take more time to talk about and to deal with…" or "I was raised orthodox, so this is not something we talk about…"; and (3) reasons that appeared to straddle both of the above themes (eg, acknowledgment of the sometimes taboo nature of these topics).
CONCLUSION: Although many health-care providers favor talking with patients with cancer about sexual health and sexual and gender minority status, limited time, personal reluctance, and the taboo nature of these topics appear at times to hamper the initiation of these conversations.
BACKGROUND:: Paclitaxel-treated patients can suffer from years of peripheral neuropathy with pain, numbness, and tingling. Promising preclinical data with poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors led us to explore this class of agents to palliate this neuropathy.
METHODS:: We relied on a completed trial that tested the antineoplastic effects of veliparib (NCT01012817). Data from patients who had been enrolled on NCT01012817, who previously received paclitaxel, and who had completed a validated pain assessment instrument were evaluated for improvement in their pain scores.
RESULTS:: All 34 eligible patients were women, and all had a metastatic gynecological malignancy. On a 10-point scale (higher numbers indicative of worse pain), the average baseline score was 3.6 (range: 0-7). Seven patients (21%; 95% confidence interval: 9%-38%) manifested a drop in pain score (1 score lower than baseline followed by at least one consecutive value also below baseline). Of note, no patients initiated other therapy for neuropathy while on NCT01012817.
CONCLUSION:: The PARP inhibitors merit further study for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. For patients suffering from peripheral neuropathy, these putative palliative effects might prompt earlier consideration of a PARP inhibitor as part of cancer treatment.
BACKGROUND: Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy is characterized by pain, numbness, and tingling in the hands and feet and by diminished quality of life. Multiple previous studies, mostly preclinical, suggest that poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors may help with these symptoms.
OBJECTIVE: To assess the relationship between PARP inhibition and prevention/palliation of peripheral neuropathy in a clinical setting.
DESIGN: Meta-analysis of placebo-controlled clinical trials with PARP inhibitors.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: We conducted 9 literature searches that included PubMed and other sources to compile fully published placebo-controlled clinical trials that tested PARP inhibitors and that reported on peripheral neuropathy.
MEASUREMENTS: The relative risks for neuropathy of all grades based on PARP inhibition were calculated for each trial. Each trial was weighted by its respective sample size. A forest plot was constructed.
RESULTS: Five trials, inclusive of 843 patients, met this study's eligibility criteria. Four included a concomitant PARP inhibitor (either olaparib or veliparib) and paclitaxel, a neuropathy-causing chemotherapy agent; the remaining trial evaluated long-term monotherapy with olaparib. The pooled overall relative risk for the development of neuropathy with PARP inhibition was 1.06 (95% confidence interval: 1-1.4).
CONCLUSIONS: PARP inhibition does not appear to reduce the risk of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy. Whether PARP inhibitors may palliate (rather than prevent) neuropathy remains an area in need of further investigation.
BACKGROUND: Although 50% to 90% of patients who receive epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) inhibitors develop a rash, options for rash prevention or palliation remain limited. This issue is particularly important from a palliative care standpoint because these agents are prescribed only to patients with incurable cancer. Here, we report (1) gene expression profiling of skin biopsies from patients with an EGFR inhibitor-induced rash and (2) a randomized, placebo-controlled feasibility trial with the antiandrogen, spironolactone. Both investigations were undertaken to begin to explore the hypothesis that androgens mediate EGFR inhibitor-induced rash and that antiandrogens palliate it.
METHODS/RESULTS: First, 4 skin biopsies from patients with EGFR inhibitor-induced rash (3 men and 1 woman) were subject to gene expression microarray profiling. A public data set of normal skin gene expression (Gene Expression Omnibus, GSE22998) served as a reference. Sixty percent of commonly interrogated androgen receptor genes (207 of 308 between the 2 data sets) were differentially expressed ( P < .05) in the rash samples. Second, in a 17-patient double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial with topical spironolactone applied to the face, although the primary feasibility end point was not achieved, patients in the spironolactone arm received more doses of EGFR inhibitor, and anecdotal photographic evidence suggested salutatory effects of spironolactone on rash.
CONCLUSIONS: Epidermal growth factor receptor inhibitor-induced rash appears to be androgen-mediated; antiandrogen therapy merits further study for rash prevention/palliation.
End of life is difficult for all patients but sexual and gender minorities (SGM) are prone to isolation and loneliness, especially if their SGM status is unknown or unaccepted. In oncology clinics, where goals of care discussions about end of life are integral and frequent, querying patients about their SGM status and sexual health is of particular importance. The American Society of Clinical Oncology recently released a position statement that called for greater focus on SGM populations with the goal of reducing and eventually eliminating disparities in cancer care within this group. An important first step in addressing such disparities is learning how best to train cancer health-care providers to ask patients about their SGM status and about sexual health in general. This article summarizes the mandate for understanding cancer issues in SGM populations and the dearth of cancer-related data within this group. This article also describes an ongoing 3-part study intended to build a mini curriculum with the goal of helping cancer health-care providers to ask patients with cancer about SGM status and to ask all patients with cancer about sexual health issues. The results of this ongoing study could potentially improve end-of-life care for subgroups of patients.
BACKGROUND: More than 80% of patients with advanced cancer develop weight loss. Because preclinical data suggest poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors can treat this weight loss, this study was undertaken to explore the PARP inhibitor veliparib for this indication.
OBJECTIVE: The current study was undertaken to analyze prospectively gathered data on weight in cancer patients on PARP inhibitors.
DESIGN/SETTING: The current study relied on a previously published, prospectively conducted phase 1 single institution trial that combined veliparib and topotecan (NCT01012817) as antineoplastic therapy for advanced cancer patients. Serial weight data and, when available and clinically relevant, computerized tomography scans were also examined.
MEASUREMENTS: The primary endpoint was 10% or greater weight gain from trial enrollment.
RESULTS: Nearly all 60 patients lost weight over time. Only one patient manifested a 10% or greater gain in weight. However, review of computerized tomography L3 images showed this weight gain was a manifestation of ascites. Four other patients gained 5% of their baseline weight. However, findings in two patients with available radiographs showed no evidence of muscle augmentation.
CONCLUSIONS: The addition of the PARP inhibitor veliparib to chemotherapy does not appear to result in notable weight gain or in weight maintenance in patients with advanced cancer. Interventions other than PARP inhibitors should be considered for the palliation/treatment of cancer-associated weight loss.
PURPOSE: Cancer-associated weight loss is associated with poor prognosis in advanced malignancy; however, its pretreatment prevalence and survival impact are inadequately described in large cohorts. Such data, stratified by tumor type and stage, may facilitate the optimal and timely allocation of complementary care, leading to improvements in patient survival and quality of life.
METHODS: We performed a retrospective cohort study of 3,180 consecutively treated adult patients with lung or GI (including colorectal, liver, and pancreatic) cancer. Pretreatment cancer-associated weight loss was based on the international consensus definition of cachexia. Prevalence and survival impact of pretreatment cancer-associated weight loss were evaluated using the Kaplan-Meier method and compared using log-rank test.
RESULTS: Cancer-associated weight loss was observed at the time of cancer diagnosis in 34.1% of patients. Pretreatment weight loss was documented in 17.6%, 25.8%, 36.6%, and 43.3% of stage I, II, III, and IV cancers, respectively. Wasting was common regardless of tumor type, with prevalence at diagnosis ranging from 27.3% in patients with colorectal cancer to 53.4% in patients with gastroesophageal cancer. Pretreatment weight loss was associated with reduced overall survival after adjusting for stage, size, grade, comorbidity, age, sex, and tobacco history (hazard ratio, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.13 to 1.39).
CONCLUSION: Pretreatment cancer-associated weight loss is common, even in early-stage disease, and is independently associated with reduced survival. Minimal weight loss represents a clinically distinct entity with an associated overall survival intermediate to that of no weight loss and overt wasting. Early diagnosis and treatment of cancer-associated wasting offers a novel therapeutic avenue for reducing cancer mortality.