Purpose: Parenteral morphine is widely used for dyspnea of imminently dying cancer patients, but the outcomes to expect over time remain largely unknown. We examined outcomes after the administration of parenteral morphine infusion over 48 h in cancer patients with a poor performance status.
Methods: This was a multicenter prospective observational study. Inclusion criteria were metastatic/locally advanced cancer, ECOG performance status = 3–4, a dyspnea intensity = 2 on a Support Team Assessment Schedule, Japanese version (STAS-J), and receiving specialized palliative care. After initiating parenteral morphine infusion, we measured dyspnea STAS-J as well as Memorial Delirium Assessment Scale (MDAS), item 9, and Communication Capacity Scale (CCS), item 4, every 6 h over 48 h.
Results: We enrolled 167 patients (median survival = 4 days). The mean age was 70 years, 80 patients (48%) had lung cancer, and 109 (65%) had lung metastases. The mean STAS-J scores decreased from 3.1 (95% confidence interval (CI) = 3.0–3.2) at the baseline to 2.1 (95%CI = 1.9–2.2) at 6 h, and remained 1.6–1.8 over 12–48 h. The proportion of patients with dyspnea relief (STAS-J = 1) increased to 39% at 6 h, and ranged between 49 and 61% over 12–48 h. In contrast, up to 6.6 and 20% of patients showed hyperactive delirium (MDAS item 9 = 2) and an inability to communicate (CCS item 4 = 3), respectively, over 48 h.
Conclusions: Overall, terminal dyspnea was relatively well controlled with parenteral morphine, though a significant number of patients continued to suffer from dyspnea. Future efforts are needed to improve outcomes following standardized dyspnea treatment using patient-reported outcomes for imminently dying patients.
CONTEXT: Morphine is recommended as the first-line pharmacological therapy for cancer dyspnea. However, the detailed practice of morphine has not been evaluated, and consensus about other opioids for cancer dyspnea has not been established.
OBJECTIVES: To explore the physician-reported practice of opioid for cancer dyspnea.
METHODS: Nationwide mail-questionnaire survey was conducted among 536 Japanese certified palliative care physicians. We randomly selected 268 and asked the following: 1) how the physicians themselves initiate and use morphine for cancer dyspnea, 2) opioid choice for dyspnea in patients who have already used opioid other than morphine regularly, and 3) opioid choice for dyspnea in patients with various degrees of renal impairment in their daily practice.
RESULTS: Overall, 192 physicians responded (response rate, 71.6%). The major (58.3%) practice of initiating morphine was "immediate-release morphine as needed" in opioid-naïve patients and the mean % increase when they titrate morphine for cancer dyspnea was 29.4±11.3% of the baseline dose. Although "titrate baseline oxycodone" was the most frequent (42.3%) for low-to-moderate-dose regular oxycodone cases, "stepwise switch to morphine" (30.0%) and "add morphine on baseline oxycodone" (27.1%) were the more frequent practices for high-dose regular oxycodone. Regardless of the baseline dose, "add morphine on baseline fentanyl" was the most frequent practice for regular transdermal fentanyl cases. Oxycodone was the most frequent choice in renal insufficiency cases, regardless of its degree.
CONCLUSIONS: Among Japanese palliative care physicians, using oxycodone for cancer dyspnea was relatively popular practice, while fentanyl was not. Oxycodone was the most preferred opioid for cancer dyspnea in the setting of renal insufficiency among Japanese palliative care physicians. We should conduct studies to confirm the safety and effectiveness of these opioid practices for cancer dyspnea.
BACKGROUND: Methadone may play a role in the control of refractory cancer pain in opioid switching, although some cases fail to switch to methadone.
OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the differences in the clinical aspects in switching to methadone between successful cases (SCs) and unsuccessful cases (UCs).
DESIGN: This was a retrospective study of the clinical aspects of cancer patients who experienced opioid switching from other opioids to methadone.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: Eighty-seven patients who were prescribed oral methadone in our hospital were analyzed. Methadone was initiated from other opioids due to refractory pain in the stop-and-go switching. Among the 87 cases, 7 cases were excluded from further analysis because methadone administration was stopped due to vomiting or self-cessation within six days from switching.
RESULTS: Among the 80 cases who had methadone for seven days or more, 70 cases (SCs) were successful in switching to methadone, according to the Japanese definition, although 10 cases (UCs) who experienced the rapid progression of illness failed due to oral difficulty in the course of titration. In comparison of the clinical characteristics between SCs and UCs, the number of days alive from the start of the administration of methadone was significantly greater in the SCs than in the UCs (SCs: 87.1, UCs: 19, p < 0.0001), but no significant differences were observed for any other factors.
CONCLUSION: From this comparative retrospective study of opioid switching to methadone for cancer pain control between SCs and UCs, early switching to methadone may be useful for patients with advanced cancer pain.
Background: Some terminal cancer patients wish to “go to a memorable place” or “return home.” However, owing to various symptom burdens and physical dysfunction, these wishes are difficult for them to realize.
Objective: The aim of the study is to verify whether simulated travel using virtual reality (VR travel) is efficacious in improving symptoms in terminal cancer patients.
Design: This is a prospective, multicenter, single-arm study.
Setting/Subjects: Twenty participants with terminal cancer were recruited from two palliative care wards; data were collected from November 2017 to April 2018.
Measurements: The VR software Google Earth VR® was used. The primary endpoint was the change in the Edmonton Symptom Assessment System scores for each symptom before and after VR travel.
Results: The average age of the participants was 72.3 (standard deviation [SD] = 11.9) years. Significant improvements were observed for pain (2.35, SD = 2.25 vs. 1.15, SD = 2.03, p = 0.005), tiredness (2.90, SD = 2.71 vs. 1.35, SD = 1.90, p = 0.004), drowsiness (2.70, SD = 2.87 vs. 1.35, SD = 2.30, p = 0.012), shortness of breath (1.74, SD = 2.73 vs. 0.35, SD = 0.99, p = 0.022), depression (2.45, SD = 2.63 vs. 0.40, SD = 0.82, p = 0.001), anxiety (2.60, SD = 2.64 vs. 0.80, SD = 1.51, p < 0.001), and well-being (4.50, SD = 2.78 vs. 2.20, SD = 1.99, p < 0.001; pre- vs. post-VR travel score, respectively). No participants complained of serious side effects.
Conclusions: This preliminary study suggests that VR travel can be efficacious and safe for terminal cancer patients for improving symptom burden.
Objectives: Although transthyretin (TTR) is a nutritional indicator and is influenced by systemic inflammation, it may be a good prognostic indicator for cancer patients in palliative care settings. This study investigates the correlation between low TTR levels and survival among cancer patients in palliative care settings.
Methods: This was a sub-analysis of a prospective, multicenter cohort study. Patients who had advanced-stage cancer and who were newly referred to palliative care services were eligible to participate; however, those receiving anti-tumor therapy were excluded. Survival analyses were performed to clarify predictors of poor prognosis.
Results: A total of 144 patients were enrolled (45.1% female; median age, 72 years). Cox regression analysis revealed that low TTR levels (<10.9 mg/l) (hazard ratio 1.74, P = 0.025), poor muscle power (1.71, P = 0.045), and fatigue (1.89, P = 0.024) were predictors of poor prognosis. Median survival in patients with low TTR levels (<10.9 mg/l) was 26 days, which was significantly shorter than those with high TTR levels (=10.9 mg/l) (50 days; P < 0.001).
Conclusion: Low TTR levels may be indicators for poor prognosis among cancer patients in palliative care settings.
OBJECTIVE: Little is known about the associations between family satisfaction with end-of-life care and caregiver burden. We conducted a researcher-assisted questionnaire survey to clarify the impact of caregiver burden on family satisfaction and to determine the types of burden that decrease family satisfaction.
METHOD: Bereaved family caregivers of patients with advanced cancer who received our outreach palliative care service were retrospectively identified. Family satisfaction with the end-of-life care provided by the palliative care service and caregiver burden were quantified using the Japanese versions of the FAMCARE Scale and the Zarit Burden Interview (ZBI), respectively.
RESULTS: Our study subjects included 23 family caregivers. The mean scores on the FAMCARE Scale and the ZBI for the total population were 72.8 ± 11.2 and 22.8 ± 17.3, respectively, indicating moderate-to-high satisfaction and low-to-moderate burden. Caregiver burden had a strong negative correlation to family satisfaction with end-of-life care (Spearman's rho [ ] = -0.560, p = 0.005), which remained after adjustment for potential confounders (standardized beta [ß] = -0.563, p = 0.01). Several burden items—including loss of control, personal time, social engagement with others, feeling angry with the patient, feeling that the patient wants more help than he/she needs, and a wish to leave the care to someone else—were associated with decreased satisfaction. The major cause of dissatisfaction for family members included the information provided regarding prognosis, family conferences with medical professionals, and the method of involvement of family members in care decisions.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESULTS: Caregiver burden can be a barrier to family satisfaction with end-of-life care at home. A home care model focused on caregiver burden could improve end-of-life experiences for patients and family caregivers.
Background: There is no established method to objectively predict short-term prognosis. Recently, we proposed objective, short-term, prognostic predictive methods that are combinations of laboratory test items: WPCBAL score, derived from six values (white blood cell, platelet, C-reactive protein, blood urea nitrogen, aspartate aminotransferase, and lactate dehydrogenase). However, that study was conducted in an acute-phase hospital to identify the test items useful for prognostic prediction; thus, whether WPCBAL score could be applied to terminal cancer patients in a palliative care unit was unverified.
Objective: To verify the usefulness of WPCBAL score for terminal cancer patients.
Design: A retrospective study.
Setting/Subjects: Patients admitted to the palliative care unit of Ashiya Municipal Hospital (N = 128) in Japan in 2016.
Measurements: The sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, negative predictive value, accuracy, and area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUROC) were compared between WPCBAL score and the Glasgow prognostic score (GPS).
Results: For predicting three-week prognosis, WPCBAL score showed higher AUROC compared with GPS (0.7540 and 0.6573, respectively). WPCBAL score predicting two-week prognosis showed greater AUROC than GPS predicting three-week prognosis (0.7491 and 0.6573, respectively).
Conclusion: WPCBAL score was verified to objectively predict the two- or three-week prognosis for terminal cancer patients in a palliative care unit. WPCBAL score may be a new option for prognostic prediction for terminal cancer patients.
BACKGROUND: Dyspnea is common in interstitial lung disease (ILD) patients and often refractory to conventional treatment. Little is known regarding the safety of systemic morphine in ILD patients.
OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study is to evaluate the safety of a single subcutaneous morphine injection and to determine the recommended dose of morphine for alleviating dyspnea in ILD patients.
DESIGN: We conducted a dose-escalation Phase I study for investigating the recommended dose of a single subcutaneous morphine injection to alleviate dyspnea in ILD patients.
SETTING/SUBJECTS: Eligible subjects were ILD inpatients with dyspnea at rest who were refractory to conventional dyspnea treatment. The morphine doses used were 1 mg and 2 mg in cohort 1 and cohort 2, respectively. The primary endpoint was dose-limiting toxicity, which was defined as (1) respiratory depression, that is, 30% reduction of respiratory rate and 10 Torr increase of PaCO2 compared with baseline; (2) hypotension, that is, 20% reduction of systemic blood pressure compared with baseline and presentation of hypotension-related symptoms; or (3) grade 3, 4, or 5 treatment-emergent adverse events graded by Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events (version 4).
RESULTS: A total of six patients were enrolled, with three patients each in cohorts 1 and 2. No dose-limiting toxicities were observed; three patients experienced worsened somnolence, but no patients experienced sedation.
CONCLUSION: We conclude that 2 mg of morphine has a tolerable safety profile in ILD patients with dyspnea, and can be tested in further clinical trials.