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.
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.
CONTEXT: To respect a patient's wish for end-of-life care, "the Act on Decisions on Life-Sustaining Treatment for Patients at the End-of-Life" was enacted in South Korea in 2016. Current understanding of people who would be involved in advance care planning (ACP) is crucial to disseminate it systematically.
OBJECTIVES: To investigate awareness and attitudes toward ACP in South Korea.
METHODS: A multicenter, nationwide cross-sectional study was conducted a survey regarding ACP among four groups that would have different positions and experiences: 1,001 cancer patients, 1,006 family caregivers, 928 physicians, and 1,241 members of the general public.
RESULTS: A total of 15% of the general population, 33% of the patients and caregivers, and 61% of the physicians had knowledge of advance directives. More than 64% of the general population, above 72% of the patients and caregivers, and 97% of the physicians were willing to do so when the disease status was aggravated or terminal. The possibility for changing the plan, uncertainty as to whether directives would actually be followed, and psychological discomfort were common reasons for not wanting to engage in ACP. Routine recommendations for a specific medical condition, heightened accessibility, and health insurance support were common factors that could help facilitate ACP.
CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that strategies for promoting ACP should reflect different perspectives among the general public, patients, family caregivers, and physicians. Public advocacy, resources for approaching and integrating ACP into routine healthcare, as well as systematic support provisions, are needed.
OBJECTIVES: This study determined attitudes of four groups-Korean patients with cancer, their family caregivers, physicians and the general Korean population-towards five critical end-of-life (EOL) interventions-active pain control, withdrawal of futile life-sustaining treatment (LST), passive euthanasia, active euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.
DESIGN AND SETTING: We enrolled 1001 patients with cancer and 1006 caregivers from 12 large hospitals in Korea, 1241 members of the general population and 928 physicians from each of the 12 hospitals and the Korean Medical Association. We analysed the associations of demographic factors, attitudes towards death and the important components of a 'good death' with critical interventions at EoL care.
RESULTS: All participant groups strongly favoured active pain control and withdrawal of futile LST but differed in attitudes towards the other four EoL interventions. Physicians (98.9%) favoured passive euthanasia more than the other three groups. Lower proportions of the four groups favoured active euthanasia or PAS. Multiple logistic regression showed that education (adjusted OR (aOR) 1.77, 95% CI 1.33 to 2.36), caregiver role (aOR 1.67, 95% CI 1.34 to 2.08) and considering death as the ending of life (aOR 1.66, 95% CI 1.05 to 1.61) were associated with preference for active pain control. Attitudes towards death, including belief in being remembered (aOR 2.03, 95% CI 1.48 to 2.79) and feeling ‘life was meaningful’ (aOR 2.56, 95% CI 1.58 to 4.15) were both strong correlates of withdrawal of LST with the level of monthly income (aOR 2.56, 95% CI 1.58 to 4.15). Believing ‘freedom from pain’ negatively predicted preference for passive euthanasia (aOR 0.69, 95% CI 0.55 to 0.85). In addition, ‘not being a burden to the family’ was positively related to preferences for active euthanasia (aOR 1.62, 95% CI 1.39 to 1.90) and PAS (aOR 1.61, 95% CI 1.37 to 1.89).
CONCLUSION: Groups differed in their attitudes towards the five EoL interventions, and those attitudes were significantly associated with various attitudes towards death.
CONTEXT: Spiritual well-being (SWB) is very important in palliative care patients.
OBJECTIVES: The aim of this study is to investigate the SWB among palliative care patients in Korea with different religious affiliations, and to identify the correlates of SWB.
METHODS: This study is a cross-sectional, multicenter study involving hospitalized patients seen by palliative care teams. We collected data on basic clinicodemographic characteristics, factors related to religion (meaningful religious events, religious activities such as attending worship, individual spiritual activities such as prayer), overall quality of life (QOL) and SWB. SWB was measured using Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-Spirituality 12 (FACIT-Sp 12). We examined the differences in SWB among patients who reported themselves as Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, and no religious affiliations.
RESULTS: Among the 202 patients enrolled, 69 (33.8%), 48 (23.5%), 43 (20.6%), and 42 (20.6%) persons were Protestants, Catholics, Buddhists, and have no religious affiliation, respectively. The FACIT-Sp12 was highest among Protestants, followed by Catholics, Buddhists, and those without religious affiliation (29.8 vs. 27.0 vs. 23.2 vs 16.3, P<0.001). The faith subscale (12.4 vs. 10.4 vs. 7.7 vs. 2.5, P<0.001) showed similar distributions. Christians reported higher SWB in the meaning and the peace subscale than patients without a religious affiliation. In the multivariate analysis, religious affiliation (P<0.001), individual spiritual activities (P<0.001), and QOL (P<0.001) were significantly related to a greater SWB. Age was inversely associated with the meaning subscale (P=0.002).
CONCLUSIONS: Although faith practices may be particularly helpful to improve spiritual well-being among Christians, further research is needed to determine what individual spiritual activities can support non-Christians.
PURPOSE: Understanding the concept of a "good death" is crucial to end-of-life care, but our current understanding of what constitutes a good death is insufficient. Here, we investigated the components of a good death that are important to the general population, cancer patients, their families, and physicians.
METHODS: We conducted a stratified nationwide cross-sectional survey of cancer patients and their families from 12 hospitals, physicians from 12 hospitals and the Korean Medical Association, and the general population, investigating their attitudes toward 10 good-death components.
FINDINGS: Three components-"not be a burden to the family," "presence of family," and "resolve unfinished business"-were considered the most important components by more than 2/3 of each of the three groups, and an additional three components-"freedom from pain," "feel that life was meaningful," and "at peace with God"-were considered important by all but the physicians group. Physicians considered "feel life was meaningful," "presence of family," and "not be a burden to family" as the core components of a good death, with "freedom from pain" as an additional component. "Treatment choices' followed, "finances in order," "mentally aware," and "die at home" were found to be the least important components among all four groups.
CONCLUSION: While families strongly agreed that "presence of family" and "not be a burden to family" were important to a good death, the importance of other factors differed between the groups. Health care providers should attempt to discern each patient's view of a good death.
Background: Older patients have increased risk of toxicity from chemotherapy. Current prediction tools do not provide information on cumulative risk.
Methods: Patients aged = 70 years with solid cancer were prospectively enrolled. A prediction model was developed for adverse events (AEs) = Grade 3 (G3), based on geriatric assessment (GA), laboratory, and clinical variables.
Results: 301 patients were enrolled (median age, 75 years). Median number of chemotherapy cycles was 4. During first-line chemotherapy, 53.8% of patients experienced AEs = G3. Serum protein < 6.7 g/dL, initial full-dose chemotherapy, psychological stress or acute disease in the past 3 months, water consumption < 3 cups/day, unable to obey a simple command, and self-perception of poor health were significantly related with AEs = G3. A predicting model with these six variables ranging 0–8 points was selected with the highest discriminatory ability (c-statistic= 0.646), which could classify patients into four risk groups. Predicted cumulative incidence of AEs = G3 was discriminated according to risk groups.
Conclusions: This prediction tool could identify the risk of AEs = G3 after chemotherapy and provide information on the cumulative incidence of AEs in each cycle.
Clinical Trial Id WHO ICTRP number, KCT0001071
Integrated early palliative care (EPC) improves quality of life and reduces psychological distress in adult patients with cancer and caregivers, but attitudes toward EPC have been poorly studied. We aimed to investigate attitudes toward EPC in a nationwide survey of patients with cancer and caregivers. From July to October 2016, we administered nationwide questionnaires examining attitudes toward EPC in patients with cancer (n = 1001) and their families (n = 1006) from 12 Korean hospitals. When an individual considered EPC unnecessary, the reasons were collected and analyzed. Factors associated with perception of EPC were examined. A majority of patients (84.5%) and caregivers (89.5%) had positive attitudes toward EPC. The most common reasons for deeming EPC unnecessary were that EPC may be an obstacle to cancer treatment (patients: 37%; caregivers: 23%; respectively) or that they were not sure if EPC is beneficial (patients: 21%; caregivers: 24%; respectively). Financial burden as a reason was more evident in caregivers (23%) than in patients (17%). Male gender, age <50, early stage, intensive care unit admission, and not believing that dying people should prepare to practice charity were associated with patients' negative attitudes. In caregivers, opposition to EPC was associated with not thinking death should be feared, not thinking people should be remembered, and lower educational level. Our findings showed that significant numbers of patients with advanced cancer and family caregivers showed positive attitudes toward EPC. However, more than 10% of participants did not consider EPC necessary. Physicians' communication with patients and caregivers and financial support could help overcome the barriers of EPC.
CONTEXT: Attrition is common in longitudinal observational studies in palliative care. Few studies have examined predictors of attrition.
OBJECTIVES: To identify patient characteristics at enrollment associated with attrition in palliative oncology outpatient setting.
METHODS: In this longitudinal observational study, advanced cancer patients [ACP] enrolled in an outpatient multicenter study were assessed at baseline and 2-5 weeks later. We compared baseline characteristics between patients who returned for follow-up and those who dropped out.
RESULTS: 744 patients were enrolled from Jordan, Brazil, Chile, Korea and India. Attrition rate was 33%, with variation among countries (22%-39%; p=.023). In univariate analysis, baseline predictors for attrition were cognitive failure (odds ratio [OR] 1.23 per point in Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale; p<.01), functional status (OR 1.55 per 10 point decrease in Karnofsky Performance Status; p<.01), Edmonton Symptom Assessment System [ESAS] physical score (OR 1.03 per point; p<.01), ESAS emotional score (OR 1.05 per point; p<.01) and shorter duration between cancer diagnosis and palliative care referral in months (OR .89 per log; p=.028). In multivariate analysis, cognitive failure (OR 1.12 per point; p=.007), ESAS physical score (OR 1.18 per point; p=.027), functional status (OR 1.35 per 10 point decrease; p<.001) and shorter duration from cancer diagnosis (OR .86 per log; p=.01) remained independent predictors of attrition.
CONCLUSION: ACP with cognitive failure, increased physical symptoms, poorer performance status and shorter duration from cancer diagnosis were more likely to dropout. These results have implications for research design, patient selection and data interpretation in longitudinal observational studies.
Although off-label medications are frequently prescribed in palliative care, there are no published studies examining their use in the U.S. We examined the frequency of off-label medication use in cancer patients admitted to an acute palliative care unit (APCU). This prospective observational study enrolled consecutive patients with advanced cancer admitted to the APCU of a tertiary care cancer center. We collected data on all prescription events, including indications for use, from admission to discharge. Off-label use was checked against the U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved indications. Among the 201 patients, median survival was 10 days (95% CI 7–13), and 85 (42%) patients died in the APCU. We documented 6276 prescription events, and 2199 (35%) were off-label. Among off-label prescriptions, central nervous system agents (n = 1606, 73%), hormones and synthetic substitutes (n = 302, 14%), and autonomic drugs (n = 183, 8%) were most commonly prescribed. Haloperidol (n = 720, 33%), chlorpromazine (n = 292, 13%), dexamethasone (n = 280, 13%), glycopyrrolate (n = 175, 8%), hydromorphone (n = 161, 7%), and morphine (n = 156, 7%) were most frequently prescribed off-label. The most common indications for off-label prescribing were delirium (n = 783, 36%) and dyspnea (n = 449, 20%). Seventy percent of all off-label prescription events had strong evidence supporting use, and 19% of prescription events had moderate or weak evidence for use. One-third of prescription events in the APCU were off-label, with majority of off-label use having a strong level of supporting evidence. Our findings highlight the need for more research in key areas such as delirium and dyspnea management.