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Elyse R. Park, Jeffrey Peppercorn, and Areej El-Jawahri

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Lisa I. Iezzoni, Sowmya R. Rao, Nicole D. Agaronnik, and Areej El-Jawahri

Background: Approximately 61 million Americans have a disability. Little research has explored whether disability is associated with subsequent diagnosis of cancer, the second-leading cause of death in the United States. The objective of this study was to explore associations between cancer and disability, focusing on 4 cancers that may present with nonspecific symptoms that could be conflated with aspects of disability, thus delaying cancer diagnoses. An analysis of a nationally representative survey using sampling weights to produce national estimates was performed. Methods: Civilian, noninstitutionalized US residents responding to the 2010–2017 National Health Interview Surveys totaling 259,392 Sample Adult Core survey respondents were included. We used self-reported functional status limitations to identify persons with movement difficulties (MD), complex activity limitations (CAL), and no disability. Multivariable regressions predicting cancer diagnosis included sociodemographic characteristics, tobacco use, body mass index, access to care indicators, and disability status. Results: Persons with preexisting disability had significantly higher rates of cancer (ranging from 0.40 [SE, 0.05] for ovarian to 3.38 [0.14] for prostate) than did those without disability (0.20 [0.02] and 1.26 [0.04] for the same cancers; all P<.0001). Multivariable analyses found strong associations of preexisting MD and CAL with colorectal cancer, with adjusted odds ratios (aORs) of 1.5 (95% CI, 1.2–1.9) and 1.9 (1.5–2.4), respectively. For non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, the aOR for CAL was 1.5 (1.1–2.1). For prostate cancer, aORs for MD were 1.2 (1.0–1.3) and 1.1 (1.0–1.3) for CAL. Using cross-sectional survey data, we could only identify statistical associations, not causality. Conclusions: Our population-based analyses suggest that persons with disability may constitute a high-risk population, with higher cancer incidence. Optimizing appropriate screening and fully investigating new signs and symptoms are therefore critical for patients with disability.

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Daniel E. Lage, Areej El-Jawahri, Charn-Xin Fuh, Richard A. Newcomb, Vicki A. Jackson, David P. Ryan, Joseph A. Greer, Jennifer S. Temel, and Ryan D. Nipp

Background: National guidelines recommend regular measurement of functional status among patients with cancer, particularly those who are elderly or high-risk, but little is known about how functional status relates to clinical outcomes among hospitalized patients with advanced cancer. The goal of this study was to investigate how functional impairment is associated with symptom burden and healthcare utilization and clinical outcomes. Patients and Methods: We conducted a prospective observational study of patients with advanced cancer with unplanned hospitalizations at Massachusetts General Hospital from September 2014 through March 2016. Upon admission, nurses assessed patients’ activities of daily living (ADLs; mobility, feeding, bathing, dressing, and grooming). Patients with any ADL impairment on admission were classified as having functional impairment. We used the revised Edmonton Symptom Assessment System (ESAS-r) and Patient Health Questionnaire-4 to assess physical and psychological symptoms, respectively. Multivariable regression models were used to assess the relationships between functional impairment, hospital length of stay, and survival. Results: Among 971 patients, 390 (40.2%) had functional impairment. Those with functional impairment were older (mean age, 67.18 vs 60.81 years; P<.001) and had a higher physical symptom burden (mean ESAS physical score, 35.29 vs 30.85; P<.001) compared with those with no functional impairment. They were also more likely to report moderate-to-severe pain (74.9% vs 63.1%; P<.001) and symptoms of depression (38.3% vs 23.6%; P<.001) and anxiety (35.9% vs 22.4%; P<.001). Functional impairment was associated with longer hospital length of stay (β = 1.29; P<.001) and worse survival (hazard ratio, 1.73; P<.001). Conclusions: Hospitalized patients with advanced cancer who had functional impairment experienced a significantly higher symptom burden and worse clinical outcomes compared with those without functional impairment. These findings provide evidence supporting the routine assessment of functional status on hospital admission and using this to inform discharge planning, discussions about prognosis, and the development of interventions addressing patients’ symptoms and physical function.

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Jennifer Barsky Reese, Lauren A. Zimmaro, Sharon L. Bober, Kristen Sorice, Elizabeth Handorf, Elaine Wittenberg, Areej El-Jawahri, Mary Catherine Beach, Antonio C. Wolff, Mary B. Daly, Brynna Izquierdo, and Stephen J. Lepore

Background: Most breast cancer clinicians lack training to counsel patients about sexual concerns. The purpose of this study was to assess the feasibility, acceptability, and preliminary effects of a mobile learning (mLearning) intervention (improving Sexual Health and Augmenting Relationships through Education [iSHARE]) aimed at enhancing breast cancer clinicians’ knowledge of, beliefs about, and comfort with discussing patients’ sexual health concerns. Methods: Clinicians listened to a 2-part educational podcast series offering information on breast cancer–related sexual health concerns and effective communication on the topic, which consisted of interviews with expert guests. Intervention feasibility was assessed through rates of enrollment, retention, and intervention completion, with benchmarks of 40%, 70%, and 60%, respectively. Acceptability was assessed through program evaluations, with 75% of clinicians rating the intervention favorably (eg, relevance, satisfaction) signifying acceptability. Clinicians self-reported their knowledge about breast cancer–related sexual health concerns, beliefs (ie, self-efficacy for discussing sexual health concerns), and comfort with discussing sexual concerns measured at preintervention and postintervention. Qualitative analysis examined clinicians’ perceptions of lessons learned from the intervention. Results: A total of 32 breast cancer clinicians enrolled (46% of those invited; 97% of those who responded and screened eligible), 30 (94%) completed both the intervention and study surveys, and 80% rated the intervention favorably, demonstrating feasibility and acceptability. Results showed positive trends for improvement in clinician knowledge, beliefs, and comfort with discussing sexual health concerns. Clinicians reported key lessons learned, including taking a proactive approach to discussing sexual health concerns, normalizing the topic, addressing vaginal health, sending the message that help is available, and assessing sexual health concerns with patients from different backgrounds. Conclusions: Breast cancer clinicians were amenable to participating in the iSHARE intervention and found it useful. iSHARE showed promise for improving clinician’s knowledge and comfort discussing patients’ sexual health concerns. A larger trial is required to demonstrate efficacy. Future studies should also examine whether iSHARE can improve patient–clinician communication and address patients’ sexual concerns.

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P. Connor Johnson, Caron Jacobson, Alisha Yi, Anna Saucier, Tejaswini M. Dhawale, Ashley Nelson, Mitchell W. Lavoie, Mathew J. Reynolds, Carlisle E.W. Topping, Matthew J. Frigault, and Areej El-Jawahri

Background: CAR T-cell therapy has revolutionized the treatment of patients with hematologic malignancies, but it can result in prolonged hospitalizations and serious toxicities. However, data on the impact of CAR T-cell therapy on healthcare utilization and end-of-life (EoL) outcomes are lacking. Methods: We conducted a retrospective analysis of 236 patients who received CAR T-cell therapy at 2 tertiary care centers from February 2016 through December 2019. We abstracted healthcare utilization and EoL outcomes from the electronic health record, including hospitalizations, receipt of ICU care, hospitalization and receipt of systemic therapy in the last 30 days of life, palliative care, and hospice referrals. Results: Most patients (81.4%; n=192) received axicabtagene ciloleucel. Overall, 28.1% of patients experienced a hospital readmission and 15.5% required admission to the ICU within 3 months of CAR T-cell therapy. Among the deceased cohort, 58.3% (49/84) were hospitalized and 32.5% (26/80) received systemic therapy in the last 30 days of life. Rates of palliative care and hospice referrals were 47.6% and 30.9%, respectively. In multivariable logistic regression, receipt of bridging therapy (odds ratio [OR], 3.15; P=.041), index CAR-T hospitalization length of stay >14 days (OR, 4.76; P=.009), hospital admission within 3 months of CAR T-cell infusion (OR, 4.29; P=.013), and indolent lymphoma transformed to diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (OR, 9.83; P=.012) were associated with likelihood of hospitalization in the last 30 days of life. Conclusions: A substantial minority of patients receiving CAR T-cell therapy experienced hospital readmission or ICU utilization in the first 3 months after CAR T-cell therapy, and most deceased recipients of CAR T-cell therapy received intensive EoL care. These findings underscore the need for interventions to optimize healthcare delivery and EoL care for this population.

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Ryan D. Nipp, Leah L. Thompson, Brandon Temel, Charn-Xin Fuh, Christine Server, Paul S. Kay, Sophia Landay, Daniel E. Lage, Lara Traeger, Erin Scott, Vicki A. Jackson, Nora K. Horick, Joseph A. Greer, Areej El-Jawahri, and Jennifer S. Temel

Background: Oncologists often struggle with managing the complex issues unique to older adults with cancer, and research is needed to identify patients at risk for poor outcomes. Methods: This study enrolled patients aged ≥70 years within 8 weeks of a diagnosis of incurable gastrointestinal cancer. Patient-reported surveys were used to assess vulnerability (Vulnerable Elders Survey [scores ≥3 indicate a positive screen for vulnerability]), quality of life (QoL; EORTC Quality of Life of Cancer Patients questionnaire [higher scores indicate better QoL]), and symptoms (Edmonton Symptom Assessment System [ESAS; higher scores indicate greater symptom burden] and Geriatric Depression Scale [higher scores indicate greater depression symptoms]). Unplanned hospital visits within 90 days of enrollment and overall survival were evaluated. We used regression models to examine associations among vulnerability, QoL, symptom burden, hospitalizations, and overall survival. Results: Of 132 patients approached, 102 (77.3%) were enrolled (mean [M] ± SD age, 77.25 ± 5.75 years). Nearly half (45.1%) screened positive for vulnerability, and these patients were older (M, 79.45 vs 75.44 years; P=.001) and had more comorbid conditions (M, 2.13 vs 1.34; P=.017) compared with nonvulnerable patients. Vulnerable patients reported worse QoL across all domains (global QoL: M, 53.26 vs 66.82; P=.041; physical QoL: M, 58.95 vs 88.24; P<.001; role QoL: M, 53.99 vs 82.12; P=.001; emotional QoL: M, 73.19 vs 85.76; P=.007; cognitive QoL: M, 79.35 vs 92.73; P=.011; social QoL: M, 59.42 vs 82.42; P<.001), higher symptom burden (ESAS total: M, 31.05 vs 15.00; P<.001), and worse depression score (M, 4.74 vs 2.25; P<.001). Vulnerable patients had a higher risk of unplanned hospitalizations (hazard ratio, 2.38; 95% CI, 1.08–5.27; P=.032) and worse overall survival (hazard ratio, 2.26; 95% CI, 1.14–4.48; P=.020). Conclusions: Older adults with cancer who screen positive as vulnerable experience a higher symptom burden, greater healthcare use, and worse survival. Screening tools to identify vulnerable patients should be integrated into practice to guide clinical care.

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Areej El-Jawahri, Deborah Forst, Alyssa Fenech, Keri O. Brenner, Amanda L. Jankowski, Lauren Waldman, Isabella Sereno, Ryan Nipp, Joseph A. Greer, Lara Traeger, Vicki Jackson, and Jennifer Temel

Background: Studies have shown gaps in prognostic understanding among patients with cancer. However, few studies have explored patients’ perceptions of their treatment goals versus how they perceive their oncologist’s goals, and the association of these views with their psychological distress. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of 559 patients with incurable lung, gastrointestinal, breast, and brain cancers. The Prognosis and Treatment Perception Questionnaire was used to assess patients’ reports of their treatment goal and their oncologist’s treatment goal, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale was used to assess patients’ psychological symptoms. Results: We found that 61.7% of patients reported that both their treatment goal and their oncologist’s treatment goal were noncurative, whereas 19.3% reported that both their goal and their oncologist’s goal were to cure their cancer, 13.9% reported that their goal was to cure their cancer whereas their oncologist’s goal was noncurative, and 5% reported that their goal was noncurative whereas their oncologist’s goal was curative. Patients who reported both their goal and their oncologist’s goal as noncurative had higher levels of depression (B=0.99; P=.021) and anxiety symptoms (B=1.01; P=.015) compared with those who reported that both their goal and their oncologist’s goal was curative. Patients with discordant perceptions of their goal and their oncologist’s goal reported higher anxiety symptoms (B=1.47; P=.004) compared with those who reported that both their goal and their oncologist’s goal were curative. Conclusions: One-fifth of patients with incurable cancer reported that both their treatment goal and their oncologist’s goal were to cure their cancer. Patients who acknowledged the noncurative intent of their treatment and those who perceived that their treatment goal was discordant from that of their oncologist reported greater psychological distress.

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Emily van Seventer, J. Peter Marquardt, Amelie S. Troschel, Till D. Best, Nora Horick, Chinenye Azoba, Richard Newcomb, Eric J. Roeland, Michael Rosenthal, Christopher P. Bridge, Joseph A. Greer, Areej El-Jawahri, Jennifer Temel, Florian J. Fintelmann, and Ryan D. Nipp

Background: Low muscle mass (quantity) is common in patients with advanced cancer, but little is known about muscle radiodensity (quality). We sought to describe the associations of muscle mass and radiodensity with symptom burden, healthcare use, and survival in hospitalized patients with advanced cancer. Methods: We prospectively enrolled hospitalized patients with advanced cancer from September 2014 through May 2016. Upon admission, patients reported their physical (Edmonton Symptom Assessment System [ESAS]) and psychological (Patient Health Questionnaire-4 [PHQ-4]) symptoms. We used CT scans performed per routine care within 45 days before enrollment to evaluate muscle mass and radiodensity. We used regression models to examine associations of muscle mass and radiodensity with patients’ symptom burden, healthcare use (hospital length of stay and readmissions), and survival. Results: Of 1,121 patients enrolled, 677 had evaluable muscle data on CT (mean age, 62.86 ± 12.95 years; 51.1% female). Older age and female sex were associated with lower muscle mass (age: B, –0.16; P<.001; female: B, –6.89; P<.001) and radiodensity (age: B, –0.33; P<.001; female: B, –1.66; P=.014), and higher BMI was associated with higher muscle mass (B, 0.58; P<.001) and lower radiodensity (B, –0.61; P<.001). Higher muscle mass was significantly associated with improved survival (hazard ratio, 0.97; P<.001). Notably, higher muscle radiodensity was significantly associated with lower ESAS-Physical (B, –0.17; P=.016), ESAS-Total (B, –0.29; P=.002), PHQ-4-Depression (B, –0.03; P=.006), and PHQ-4-Anxiety (B, –0.03; P=.008) symptoms, as well as decreased hospital length of stay (B, –0.07; P=.005), risk of readmission or death in 90 days (odds ratio, 0.97; P<.001), and improved survival (hazard ratio, 0.97; P<.001). Conclusions: Although muscle mass (quantity) only correlated with survival, we found that muscle radiodensity (quality) was associated with patients’ symptoms, healthcare use, and survival. These findings underscore the added importance of assessing muscle quality when seeking to address adverse muscle changes in oncology.

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P. Connor Johnson, Netana H. Markovitz, Tamryn F. Gray, Sunil Bhatt, Ryan D. Nipp, Nneka Ufere, Julia Rice, Matthew J. Reynolds, Mitchell W. Lavoie, Carlisle E.W. Topping, Madison A. Clay, Charlotta Lindvall, and Areej El-Jawahri

Background: Social support plays a crucial role for patients with aggressive hematologic malignancies as they navigate their illness course. The aim of this study was to examine associations of social support with overall survival (OS) and healthcare utilization in this population. Methods: A cross-sectional secondary analysis was conducted using data from a prospective longitudinal cohort study of 251 hospitalized patients with aggressive hematologic malignancies at Massachusetts General Hospital from 2014 through 2017. Natural Language Processing (NLP) was used to identify the extent of patients’ social support (limited vs adequate as defined by NLP-aided chart review of the electronic health record). Multivariable regression models were used to examine associations of social support with (1) OS, (2) death or readmission within 90 days of discharge from index hospitalization, (3) time to readmission within 90 days, and (4) index hospitalization length of stay. Results: Patients had a median age of 64 years (range, 19–93 years), and most were White (89.6%), male (68.9%), and married (65.3%). A plurality of patients had leukemia (42.2%) followed by lymphoma (37.9%) and myelodysplastic syndrome/myeloproliferative neoplasm (19.9%). Using NLP, we identified that 8.8% (n=22) of patients had limited social support. In multivariable analyses, limited social support was associated with worse OS (hazard ratio, 2.00; P=.042) and a higher likelihood of death or readmission within 90 days of discharge (odds ratio, 3.11; P=.043), but not with time to readmission within 90 days or with index hospitalization length of stay. Conclusions: In this cohort of hospitalized patients with aggressive hematologic malignancies, we found associations of limited social support with lower OS and a higher likelihood of death or readmission within 90 days of hospital discharge. These findings underscore the utility of NLP for evaluating the extent of social support and the need for larger studies evaluating social support in patients with aggressive hematologic malignancies.

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Ryan D. Nipp, Brandon Temel, Charn-Xin Fuh, Paul Kay, Sophia Landay, Daniel Lage, Esteban Franco-Garcia, Erin Scott, Erin Stevens, Terrence O’Malley, Supriya Mohile, William Dale, Lara Traeger, Ardeshir Z. Hashmi, Vicki Jackson, Joseph A. Greer, Areej El-Jawahri, and Jennifer S. Temel

Background: Oncologists often struggle with managing the unique care needs of older adults with cancer. This study sought to determine the feasibility of delivering a transdisciplinary intervention targeting the geriatric-specific (physical function and comorbidity) and palliative care (symptoms and prognostic understanding) needs of older adults with advanced cancer. Methods: Patients aged ≥65 years with incurable gastrointestinal or lung cancer were randomly assigned to a transdisciplinary intervention or usual care. Those in the intervention arm received 2 visits with a geriatrician, who addressed patients’ palliative care needs and conducted a geriatric assessment. We predefined the intervention as feasible if >70% of eligible patients enrolled in the study and >75% of eligible patients completed study visits and surveys. At baseline and week 12, we assessed patients’ quality of life (QoL), symptoms, and communication confidence. We calculated mean change scores in outcomes and estimated intervention effect sizes (ES; Cohen’s d) for changes from baseline to week 12, with 0.2 indicating a small effect, 0.5 a medium effect, and 0.8 a large effect. Results: From February 2017 through June 2018, we randomized 62 patients (55.9% enrollment rate [most common reason for refusal was feeling too ill]; median age, 72.3 years; cancer types: 56.5% gastrointestinal, 43.5% lung). Among intervention patients, 82.1% attended the first visit and 79.6% attended both. Overall, 89.7% completed all study surveys. Compared with usual care, intervention patients had less QoL decrement (–0.77 vs –3.84; ES = 0.21), reduced number of moderate/severe symptoms (–0.69 vs +1.04; ES = 0.58), and improved communication confidence (+1.06 vs –0.80; ES = 0.38). Conclusions: In this pilot trial, enrollment exceeded 55%, and >75% of enrollees completed all study visits and surveys. The transdisciplinary intervention targeting older patients’ unique care needs showed encouraging ES estimates for enhancing patients’ QoL, symptom burden, and communication confidence.