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Manish A. Shah and David P. Kelsen

Gastric cancer is a cause of significant morbidity and cancer-related mortality worldwide. Despite recent advances in targeted therapy and understanding of the biology and development of the malignancy, progress in the treatment of gastric cancer has been limited. Most newly diagnosed patients will present with incurable disease, and have a median survival of less than 1 year. Although the disease has widespread ethnic and epidemiologic differences, medical management of gastric cancer does not distinguish among the various disease subtypes. The recent report of the ToGA phase III study has validated Her2 as a molecular target in this disease, supporting the concept that a greater understanding of the biology of gastric cancer subsets may improve treatment selection and overall outcome of individual patients. This article summarizes the epidemiology and ethnic variation of this disease to crystalize subtypes of gastric cancer in the context of current and future medical management of advanced disease.

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Paul Glare, Kathy Plakovic, Anna Schloms, Barbara Egan, Andrew S. Epstein, David Kelsen and Leonard Saltz

The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) for Palliative Care recommend screening all patients for palliative care (PC) needs and to call a PC consult when referral criteria are met. The goal of this pilot project was to evaluate the feasibility of implementing the screening and referral components of the NCCN Guidelines for Palliative Care in patients admitted to the Gastrointestinal Oncology Service (GIOS) at a comprehensive cancer center (CCC). Floor nurses performed the initial screening of all patients admitted to the 2 teams—Team A and Team B—of the GIOS on one floor of Memorial Hospital for 3 months. In addition, only the patients admitted to Team A were evaluated according to the referral criteria, triggering a PC consult if results were positive. Nurses were surveyed regarding satisfaction with and the acceptability of screening. During the study period, 229 (90%) total admissions were screened, with 169 (73%) having positive results. Of the Team A admissions, 72 (64%) met the referral criteria. More consults occurred for patients in Team A (47 vs 15; P=.001). In 30% of the referral criteria-triggered consults, the PC needs were manageable by the primary team. Nurses reported screening to be easy and quick (<5 minutes per patient) but only somewhat helpful. Being unfamiliar with many patients and families, floor nurses often felt unable to screen them accurately for some issues. In conclusion, screening was feasible, increasing access to PC, but accuracy and usefulness are concerns. With a consult indicated in 64% patients, yet with 30% being manageable by the primary team, the current criteria may be too sensitive for the inpatient environment of a CCC. More evaluation is needed before widespread implementation can be recommended.