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Muhamed Baljevic, Douglas W. Sborov, Ming Y. Lim, Jens Hillengass, Thomas Martin, Jorge J. Castillo, Michael B. Streiff, Shaji K. Kumar, and Natalie S. Callander

Venous thromboembolism (VTE) is a major complication in all patients with cancer. Compared with the general population, patients with multiple myeloma (MM) have a 9-fold increase in VTE risk, likely because of their malignancy, its treatments, and other additional patient-related factors. In MM, thromboembolism events tend to occur within 6 months of treatment initiation, regardless of treatment regimen; however, the use of immunomodulatory agents such as thalidomide or lenalidomide, especially in combination with dexamethasone or multiagent chemotherapy, is known to create a significant risk for VTE. Currently, official recommendations for VTE prophylaxis in MM outlined in various national guidelines or multidisciplinary society panels are based on expert opinion, because data from randomized controlled trials are scarce. Large studies which have mainly focused on the efficacy of thromboprophylaxis in patients with cancer at higher risk for VTE either had a very low representation of patients with MM, or excluded them all together, limiting our ability to draw evidence-based conclusions on how to effectively protect MM population from VTE. In this brief perspective, we highlight some of the greatest challenges that have hampered the field concerning the availability of high-quality clinical trial data for the formulation of best VTE prophylaxis strategies in patients with newly diagnosed MM, as well as the rationale for the latest updates in the NCCN Guidelines on this topic.

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Nirmala K. Manjappachar, John A. Cuenca, Claudia M. Ramírez, Mike Hernandez, Peyton Martin, Maria P. Reyes, Alba J. Heatter, Cristina Gutierrez, Nisha Rathi, Charles L. Sprung, Kristen J. Price, and Joseph L. Nates

Background: To describe short-term outcomes and independent predictors of 28-dayx mortality in adult patients with hematologic malignancies and septic shock defined by the new Third International Consensus Definitions (Sepsis-3) criteria. Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients admitted to the medical ICU with septic shock from April 2016 to March 2019. Demographic and clinical features and short-term outcomes were collected. We used descriptive statistics to summarize patient characteristics, logistic regression to identify predictors of 28-day mortality, and Kaplan-Meier plots to assess survival. Results: Among the 459 hematologic patients with septic shock admitted to the ICU, 109 (23.7%) had received hematopoietic stem cell transplant. The median age was 63 years (range, 18–89 years), and 179 (39%) were women. Nonsurvivors had a higher Charlson comorbidity index (P=.007), longer length of stay before ICU admission (P=.01), and greater illness severity at diagnosis and throughout the hospital course (P<.001). The mortality rate at 28 days was 67.8% and increased with increasing sequential organ failure assessment score on admission (odds ratio [OR], 1.11; 95% CI, 1.03–1.20), respiratory failure (OR, 3.12; 95% CI, 1.49–6.51), and maximum lactate level (OR, 1.16; 95% CI, 1.10–1.22). Aminoglycosides administration (OR, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.26–0.69), serum albumin (OR, 0.51; 95% CI, 0.31–0.86), and granulocyte colony-stimulating factor (G-CSF) (OR, 0.40; 95% CI, 0.24–0.65) were associated with lower 28-day mortality. Life support limitations were present in 81.6% of patients at death. At 90 days, 19.4% of the patients were alive. Conclusions: Despite efforts to enhance survival, septic shock in patients with hematologic malignancies is still associated with high mortality rates and poor 90-day survival. These results demonstrate the need for an urgent call to action with higher awareness, including the further evaluation of interventions such as earlier ICU admission, aminoglycosides administration, and G-CSF treatment.

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Ronald Chow, Daniel E. Lage, Grant R. Williams, Mina S. Sedrak, Joseph A. Greer, Jennifer S. Temel, and Ryan D. Nipp

Background: Older adults account for 70% of cancer-related deaths, but previous studies have shown that they are underrepresented in cancer clinical trials. We sought to analyze the representation and outcomes of older adults in trials conducted in the era of novel targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Methods: We searched the 2020 NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology and retrieved trials from the past 10 years leading to category 1 recommendations in the first-line metastatic setting for the 5 most common causes of cancer death. We categorized trials by cancer type, single-agent versus multiagent approach, and therapeutic class. We described the percentage of older adults (according to each trial’s definition) and used a Mantel-Haenszel random-effects meta-analysis model to compare overall and progression-free survival by age. Results: We identified 30 trials consisting of 24,416 patients. Across all trials, 44% of enrolled patients were older adults. Representation of older adults by cancer type within trials was 49% prostate cancer, 38% pancreatic cancer, 37% breast cancer, and 34% non–small cell lung cancer. Representation of older adults also varied by therapeutic class: 20% received immunotherapy, 44% received cytotoxic chemotherapy, 54% received targeted/hormonal therapy, and 34% received combination therapy (P<.001 for all comparisons). For each year since 2010, the percentage of older adults enrolled in trials increased by 1.9%, although this difference was not significant. We observed no difference in overall or progression-free survival between older and younger adults. In our analysis of practice-changing clinical trials, we found that 44% of clinical trial participants were older adults. Trials that included immunotherapy or a combination of therapeutic classes had a lower representation of older adults (<40%). Conclusions: We found that >40% of patients in practice-changing trials are older adults. Although they remain underrepresented in clinical trials compared with the general population, older adults in practice-changing trials seem to be better represented than in previously reported analyses of cooperative group trials.

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Margaret Tempero

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Walburga Yvonne Joko-Fru, Mirko Griesel, Nikolaus Christian Simon Mezger, Lucia Hämmerl, Tobias Paul Seraphin, Jana Feuchtner, Henry Wabinga, Guy N’da, Assefa Mathewos, Bakarou Kamaté, Judith Nsonde Malanda, Freddy Houéhanou Rodrigue Gnangnon, Gladys Chebet Chesumbai, Anne Korir, Cesaltina Lorenzoni, Annelle Zietsman, Margaret Ziona Borok, Biying Liu, Christoph Thomssen, Paul McGale, Ahmedin Jemal, Donald Maxwell Parkin, and Eva Johanna Kantelhardt

Background: Breast cancer (BC) is the most common cancer in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, little is known about the actual therapy received by women with BC and their survival outcome at the population level in SSA. This study aims to describe the cancer-directed therapy received by patients with BC at the population level in SSA, compare these results with the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines for SSA (NCCN Harmonized Guidelines), and evaluate the impact on survival. Methods: Random samples of patients with BC (≥40 patients per registry), diagnosed from 2009 through 2015, were drawn from 11 urban population–based cancer registries from 10 countries (Benin, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda, and Zimbabwe). Active methods were used to update the therapy and outcome data of diagnosed patients (“traced patients”). Excess hazards of death by therapy use were modeled in a relative survival context. Results: A total of 809 patients were included. Additional information was traced for 517 patients (63.8%), and this proportion varied by registry. One in 5 traced patients met the minimum diagnostic criteria (cancer stage and hormone receptor status known) for use of the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines. The hormone receptor status was unknown for 72.5% of patients. Of the traced patients with stage I–III BC (n=320), 50.9% received inadequate or no cancer-directed therapy. Access to therapy differed by registry area. Initiation of adequate therapy and early-stage diagnosis were the most important determinants of survival. Conclusions: Downstaging BC and improving access to diagnostics and care are necessary steps to increase guideline adherence and improve survival for women in SSA. It will also be important to strengthen health systems and facilities for data management in SSA to facilitate patient follow-up and disease surveillance.

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Sriram Yennurajalingam, Vicente Valero, Zhanni Lu, Diane D. Liu, Naifa L. Busaidy, James M. Reuben, Carolina Diaz Fleming, Janet L. Williams, Kenneth R. Hess, Karen Basen-Engquist, and Eduardo Bruera

Background: Despite the high frequency of cancer-related fatigue (CRF) and its debilitating effects on the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer, there are limited treatment options available. Treatments including physical activity (PA) or dexamethasone (Dex) improve CRF; however, they have lower adherence rates (PA) or long-term adverse effects (Dex). The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility of and preliminary results for the combination of PA and Dex in improving CRF. Methods: In this phase II randomized controlled trial, patients with advanced cancer and CRF scores of ≥4/10 on the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale were eligible. Patients were randomized to standardized PA for 4 weeks with either 4 mg of Dex (LoDex arm) or 8 mg of Dex (HiDex arm) twice a day for 7 days. Feasibility and change in the Functional Assessment of Cancer Illness Therapy-Fatigue subscale (FACIT-F) from baseline to day 8 and day 29 (primary outcome) were assessed. Secondary outcomes included changes in fatigue dimensions (FACIT-General, Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System [PROMIS]-Fatigue). Results: A total of 60 of 67 (90%) patients were evaluable. All patients were adherent to study medication. We found that 84% and 65% of patients in the LoDex arm and 96% and 68% of patients in the HiDex arm were adherent to aerobic and resistance exercise, respectively. The FACIT-F effect size in the LoDex arm was 0.90 (P<.001) and 0.92 (P<.001) and the effect size in the HiDex arm was 0.86 and 1.03 (P<.001 for both) at days 8 and 29, respectively. We found significant improvements in the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Physical (P≤.013) and the PROMIS-Fatigue (P≤.003) at days 8 and 29 in both arms. Mixed-model analysis showed a significant improvement in the FACIT-F scores at day 8 (P<.001), day 15 (P<.001), and day 29 (P=.002). Changes in the FACIT-F scores were not significantly different between patients in the 2 arms (P=.86). Conclusions: Our study found that the combination therapy of PA with Dex was feasible and resulted in the improvement of CRF. The improvement was seen for up to 3 weeks after the discontinuation of Dex. Further larger studies are justified.

ClinicalTrials.gov identifier: NCT02491632.

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Mohammed W. Rahman, Niti U. Trivedi, Peter B. Bach, and Aaron P. Mitchell

Background: Personal payments from the pharmaceutical industry to US physicians are common and are associated with changes in physicians’ clinical practice and interpretation of clinical trial results. We assessed temporal trends in industry payments to oncologists, with particular emphasis on payments to authors of oncology clinical practice guideline and on payments related to immunotherapy drugs. Methods: We included US physicians with active National Plan and Provider Enumeration System records and demographic data available in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Physician Compare system who had a specialty type of medical oncology or general internal medicine. Medical oncologists serving on NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) Panels were identified manually. Industry payments, and the subset associated with PD-1/PD-L1 drugs, were identified in Open Payments, the federal repository of all transactions of financial value from industry to physicians and teaching hospitals, from 2014 to 2017. Results: There were 13,087 medical oncologists and 85,640 internists who received payments. The mean, annual, per-physician value of payments to oncologists increased from $3,811 in 2014 to $5,854 in 2017, and from $444 to $450 for internists; the median payment increased from $152 to $199 for oncologists and remained at $0 for internists. Oncologists who served on NCCN Guidelines Panels received a greater value in payments and experienced a greater relative increase: mean payments increased from $10,820 in 2014 to $18,977 in 2017, and median payments increased from $500 to $1,366. Among companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs, mean annual per-oncologist payments associated with PD-1/PD-L1 drugs increased from $28 to $773. Total per-oncologist payments from companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs experienced a 165% increase from 2014 to 2017, compared with a 31% increase among similar companies not marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs. Conclusions: Pharmaceutical industry payments increased for US oncologists from 2014 to 2017 more than for general internists. The increase was greater among oncologists contributing to clinical practice guidelines and among pharmaceutical companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs. The increasing flow of money from industry to US oncologists supports ongoing concern regarding commercial interests in guideline development and clinical decision-making.