Background: Polypharmacy is an important issue in the care of older patients with cancer, as it increases the risk of unfavorable outcomes. We estimated the prevalence of polypharmacy, potentially inappropriate medication (PIM) use, and drug–drug interactions (DDIs) in older patients with cancer in Korea and their associations with clinical outcomes.
Subjects, Materials, and Methods: This was a secondary analysis of a prospective observational study of geriatric patients with cancer undergoing first-line palliative chemotherapy. Eligible patients were older adults (=70 years) with histologically diagnosed solid cancer who were candidates for first-line palliative chemotherapy. All patients enrolled in this study received a geriatric assessment (GA) at baseline. We reviewed the daily medications taken by patients at the time of GA before starting chemotherapy. PIMs were assessed according to the 2015 Beers criteria, and DDIs were assessed by a clinical pharmacist using Lexi-comp Drug Interactions. We evaluated the association between polypharmacy and clinical outcomes including treatment-related toxicity, and hospitalization using logistic regression and Cox regression analyses.
Results: In total, 301 patients (median age 75 years; range, 70–93) were enrolled; the most common cancer types were colorectal cancer (28.9%) and lung cancer (24.6%). Mean number of daily medications was 4.7 (±3.1; range, 0–14). The prevalence of polypharmacy (=5 medications) was 45.2% and that of excessive polypharmacy (=10 medications) was 8.6%. PIM use was detected in 137 (45.5%) patients. Clinically significant DDIs were detected in 92 (30.6%) patients. Polypharmacy was significantly associated with hospitalization or emergency room (ER) visits (odds ratio: 1.73 [1.18–2.55], p < .01). Neither polypharmacy nor PIM use showed association with treatment-related toxicity.
Conclusion: Polypharmacy, PIM use, and potential major DDIs were prevalent in Korean geriatric patients with cancer. Polypharmacy was associated with a higher risk of hospitalization or ER visits during the chemotherapy period.
Implications for Practice: This study, which included 301 older Korean patients with cancer, highlights the increased prevalence of polypharmacy in this population planning to receive palliative chemotherapy. The prevalence of polypharmacy and excessive polypharmacy was 45.2% and 8.6%, respectively. The prescription of potentially inappropriate medications (PIMs) was detected in 45.5% and clinically significant drug–drug interaction in 30.6% of patients. Given the association of polypharmacy with increased hospitalization or emergency room visits, this study points to the need for increased awareness and intervention to minimize polypharmacy in the geriatric cancer population undergoing chemotherapy. Moreover, specific criteria for establishing PIMs should be adopted for the treatment of older adults with cancer.
BACKGROUND: Accurate awareness of the prognosis is an important factor in the treatment decision of patients with advanced cancer; however, prognostic disclosure is still subject to debate because it can reduce patient's satisfaction and increase depression.
AIM: The purpose of this study is to assess whether patients' prognostic awareness is associated with decreased quality of life (QoL) or increased depressive mood in patients with advanced cancer.
DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: In this cohort study, 386 patients with advanced cancer were recruited across 3 periods from December 2016 to August 2018. The outcome of this study was a change in QoL and depression according to the patients' prognostic awareness at baseline, 3 months, and 6 months.
RESULTS: This study found significant differences in changes of QoL based on patients' prognostic awareness. From baseline to 3 months, emotional functioning (P = .039), pain (P = .042), existential well-being (P = .025), and social support (P = .038) subscale scores improved significantly more in those with lack of prognostic awareness. Over 6 months, the group without prognostic awareness improved significantly in terms of physical functioning (P = .037), emotional functioning (P = .002), nausea/vomiting (P = .048), and constipation (P = .039) subscale scores and existential well-being scores (P = .025). No significant difference between the groups was found in terms of depression.
CONCLUSION: Accurate prognostic awareness may pose harm and may provide no additional benefits in terms of QoL and mood among patients with advanced cancer for a short period of time.
BACKGROUND/AIMS: Despite increased demand for cancer patient's to make their own decisions based on an adequate understanding of what is involved in chemotherapy, the primary signing agent and the reasons for surrogate signing have not been appropriately evaluated.
METHODS: The ethics committee of the palliative medicine subgroup of the Korean Cancer Study Group designed this study and solid cancer patients to whom chemotherapy was offered, from seven institutions, were evaluated. The details relating to surrogate's signing of chemotherapy consent were evaluated. Then, we analyzed the factors associated with surrogate's signing according to patient's demographics and characteristics related to chemotherapy consent.
RESULTS: Surrogate's signing was noted for 20.7% (84/405) of patient and over half of surrogate signings were performed by the patients' son or daughter (60.7%). Two main reasons for surrogate signing were patient's incapacity (34.5%) and taking over authorization from patients (33.3%). The factors associated with more frequent surrogate's signing were absence of spouse, lower education level, outpatient, and when residents played a role as a principle provider of chemotherapy consent.
CONCLUSION: This study suggests the lack of patients' own decision making for chemotherapy in some situations. This ethical dilemma must be considered for adequately informed decision making for chemotherapy while ensuring the patients' autonomy is maintained.
CONTEXT: Few randomized controlled trials of advance care planning with a decision aid (DA) show an effect on patient preferences for end-of-life (EOL) care over time, especially in racial/ethnic settings outside the United States.
OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to examine the effect of a decision aid consisting of a video and an advance care planning (ACP) booklet for end-of-life (EOL) care preferences among patients with advanced cancer.
METHODS: Using a computer-generated sequence, we randomly assigned (1:1) advanced cancer patients to a group that received a video and workbook that both discussed either ACP (intervention group) or cancer pain control (control group). At baseline, immediately post-intervention, and at 7 weeks, we evaluated the subjects' preferences. The primary outcome was preference for EOL care (active treatment, life-prolonging treatment, or hospice care) on the assumption of a fatal disease diagnosis and the expectation of death 1) within 1 year, 2) within several months, and 3) within a few weeks. We used Bonferroni correction methods for multiple comparisons with an adjusted p level of 0.005.
RESULTS: From August 2017 to February 2018, we screened 287 eligible patients, of whom 204 were enrolled to the intervention (104 patients) or the control (100 patients). At post-intervention, the intervention group showed a significant increase in preference for active treatment, life-prolonging treatment, and hospice care on the assumption of a fatal disease diagnosis and the expectation of death within 1 year (p<0.005). Assuming a life expectancy of several months, the change in preferences was significant for active treatment and hospice care (p<0.005) but not for life-prolonging treatment. The intervention group showed a significant increase in preference for active treatment, life-prolonging treatment, and hospice care on the assumption of a fatal disease diagnosis and the expectation of death within a few weeks (p<0.005). From baseline to 7 weeks, the decrease in preference in the intervention group was not significant for active treatment, for life-prolonging treatment, and for hospice care in the intervention group in the subset expecting to die within 1 year, compared with the control group. Assuming a life expectancy of several months and a few weeks, the change in preferences was not significant for active treatment and for life-prolonging treatment, but was significantly greater for hospice care in the intervention group (p<0.005).
CONCLUSION: ACP interventions that included a video and an accompanying book improved preferences for EOL care.
Purpose: Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form is a legal document for terminally ill patients to make medical decisions with physicians near the end-of-life. A multicenter prospective study was conducted to evaluate the feasibility of POLST administration in actual oncological practice.
Materials and Methods: Patients with terminal cancer, age ≥20, and capable of communicating were eligible. The primary endpoint was the completion rate of POLST. Data about physicians' or patients' barriers were also collected.
Results: From June to December 2017, 336 patients from seven hospitals were eligible. Median patient age was 66 years (range, 20 to 94 years); 52.7% were male; and 60.4% had poor performance status. Primay cancer sites were hepato-pancreato-biliary (26.2%), lung (23.2%), and gastrointestinal (19.9%). Expected survival duration was 10.6±7.3 weeks, with 41.2% receiving hospice care, 37.9% showing progression after cancer treatment, and the remaining patients were under active treatment (15.8%) or initially diagnosed with terminal cancer (5.1%). POLST forms were introduced to 60.1% of patients, and 31.3% signed the form. Physicians' barriers were reluctance of family (49.7%), lack of rapport (44.8%), patients' denial of prognosis (34.3%), lack of time (22.7%), guilty feelings (21.5%), and uncertainty about either prognosis (21.0%) or the right time to discuss POLST (16.6%). The patients' barriers were the lack of knowledge/understanding of POLST (65.1%), emotional discomfort (63.5%), difficulty in decision-making (66.7%), or denial of prognosis (14.3%).
Conclusion: One-third of patients completed POLST forms, and various barriers were identified. To overcome such barriers, social engagement, education, and systematic support might be necessary.
Sedation therapy is a potential solution to providing relief from refractory symptoms at end of life. The aim of this study was to investigate actual sedation practice and physician characteristics associated with the use of sedation for terminally ill cancer patients in South Korea. A retrospective review was conducted on consecutive patients who had died from cancer at seven tertiary medical centers between January 2010 and October 2015. The use of sedation was defined as the administration of sedative agents to relieve intolerable symptoms within the last 2 weeks preceding death. Patients and physician characteristics and information on the use of sedation were collected.A total of 8309 patients were included in the study. Sedatives were administered in 1334 patients (16.1%) for the following indications: delirium in 39.3%, intractable pain in 23.1%, and dyspnea in 21.9%. Median duration of sedation from initiation to death was 3 days. The use of sedation depended on physician specialty and experience. Family physicians used sedation most often (57.6%), followed by medical oncologists (13.9%), other internists (10.7%), and surgical oncologists (9.4%). The use of sedation was highest for physicians with >5 to 10 years practice experience (22.1%) and lowest for those in practice for 5 years or less (10.2%). The proportion of patients receiving sedation also varied markedly across participating institutions (range, 7.0%-49.7%).This large cohort study provides insight into sedation practice for terminally ill cancer patients in South Korea. Our study shows that the use of sedation depends on physician background and institution. A nation-wide guidelines and continued education on end-of-life sedation are required in South Korea.
Purpose: The purpose of this study was to prospectively validate the Korean Cancer Study Group Geriatric Score (KG)-7, a novel geriatric screening tool, in older patients with advanced cancer planned to undergo first-line palliative chemotherapy.
Materials and Methods: Participants answered the KG-7 questionnaire before undergoing geriatric assessment (GA) and first-line palliative chemotherapy. The performance of KG-7 was evaluated by calculating the sensitivity (SE), specificity (SP), positive and negative predictive value (PPV and NPV), balanced accuracy (BA), and area under the curve (AUC).
Results: The baseline GA and KG-7 results were collected from 301 patients. The median age was 75 years (range, 70 to 93 years). Abnormal GA was documented in 222 patients (73.8%). Based on the = 5 cut-off value of KG-7 for abnormal GA, abnormal KG-7 score was shown in 200 patients (66.4%). KG-7 showed SE, SP, PPV, NPV, and BA of 75.7%, 59.7%, 84.4%, 46.0%, and 67.7%, respectively; AUC was 0.745 (95% CI, 0.687 to 0.803). Furthermore, patients with higher KG-7 scores showed significantly longer survival (p=0.006).
Conclusion: KG-7 appears to be adequate in identifying patients with abnormal GA prospectively. Hence, KG-7 can be a useful screening tool for Asian countries with limited resources and high patient volume.
Purpose: The aims of this study were to explore how oncologists and resident physicians practice end-of-life (EOL) discussions and to solicit their opinions on EOL discussions as a means to improve the quality of EOL care.
Materials and Methods: A survey questionnaire was developed to explore the experiences and opinions about EOL discussions among oncologists and residents. Descriptive statistics, the t-test, and the Chi-square test were performed for the analyses.
Results: A total of 147 oncologists and 229 residents participated in this study. The study respondents reported diverse definitions of "terminal state", and most respondents tried to disclose the patient's condition to the patient and/or family members. Both groups were involved in EOL care discussions, with a rather low satisfaction level (57.82/100). The best timing to initiate discussion was considered when metastasis or disease recurrence occurred or when withdrawal of chemotherapy was anticipated. Furthermore, the study respondents suggested that patients and their family members should be included in the EOL discussion. Medical, legal, and ethical knowledge and communication difficulties along with practical issues were revealed as barriers and facilitators for EOL discussion.
Conclusion: This study explored various perspectives of oncologists and resident physicians for EOL discussion. Since the Life-Sustaining-Treatment Decision-making Act will be implemented shortly in Korea, now is the time for oncologists and residents to prepare themselves by acquiring legal knowledge and communication skills. To achieve this, education, training, and clinical tools for healthcare professionals are required.