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Optimal Cancer Care: Concurrent Oncology and Palliative Care

Jamie H. Von Roenn

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Palliative Care Across the Continuum of Cancer Care

Tara B. Sanft and Jamie H. Von Roenn

Optimal oncology care requires the integration of palliative medicine into oncology care across the disease trajectory. All patients require screening for palliative care services at the initial oncologic visit and reassessment throughout the continuum of care. As a result of the increasing attention focused on palliative care nationally and internationally, the domains of palliative cancer care have been elucidated and have fostered the development of guidelines for quality palliative care. The recent recognition of palliative medicine as a subspecialty in the United States, the growing number of hospital-based palliative care programs, and the accreditation of palliative medicine fellowship programs by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education highlight the increased visibility of palliative medicine. This provides hope for the future of oncologic care. The palliative approach is subsumed in cancer care—it provides assistance with decision-making, symptom management, and access to financial, emotional, and spiritual services. A fully integrated program of oncology and palliative care provides the greatest opportunity for care and cure.

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Barriers and Approaches to the Successful Integration of Palliative Care and Oncology Practice

Jamie H. Von Roenn, Raymond Voltz, and Alain Serrie

As management of patients with cancer is evolving, an increased focus is being placed on individualized patient-centered care. Early integration of palliative care into the overall management of patients with cancer can help achieve this paradigm shift. Despite recommendations for earlier integration of palliative care by national and international societies, several barriers remain to achieving this goal. Survey studies have indicated a significant need for increased education regarding palliative care for both medical undergraduates and postgraduate physicians. Key issues in the early integration of palliative care include relationship-building across multiple health systems and specialties; development of a standardized definition of palliative care, making clear that it should be fully integrated with cancer-directed therapy; identification of physician and nonphysician champions; standardization of tools for patient assessment; education programs designed to meet the needs of health care professionals; and ongoing evaluation to assess program benefits and limitations.

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Fatigue is the Most Important Symptom for Advanced Cancer Patients Who Have Had Chemotherapy

Zeeshan Butt, Sarah K. Rosenbloom, Amy P. Abernethy, Jennifer L. Beaumont, Diane Paul, Debra Hampton, Paul B. Jacobsen, Karen L. Syrjala, Jamie H. Von Roenn, and David Cella

Cancer fatigue has been defined and described as an important problem. However, few studies have assessed the relative importance of fatigue compared with other patient symptoms and concerns. To explore this issue, the authors surveyed 534 patients and 91 physician experts from 5 NCCN member institutions and community support agencies. Specifically, they asked patients with advanced bladder, brain, breast, colorectal, head and neck, hepatobiliary/pancreatic, kidney, lung, ovarian, or prostate cancer or lymphoma about their “most important symptoms or concerns to monitor.” Across the entire sample, and individually for patients with 9 cancer types, fatigue emerged as the top-ranked symptom. Fatigue was also ranked most important among patients with 10 of 11 cancer types when asked to rank lists of common concerns. Patient fatigue ratings were most strongly associated with malaise (r = 0.50) and difficulties with activities of daily living, pain, and quality of life. Expert ratings of how much fatigue is attributable to disease versus treatment mostly suggested that both play an important role, with disease-related factors predominant in hepatobiliary and lung cancer, and treatment-related factors playing a stronger role in head and neck cancer.

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Development and Validation of 11 Symptom Indexes to Evaluate Response to Chemotherapy for Advanced Cancer

David Cella, Sarah K. Rosenbloom, Jennifer L. Beaumont, Susan E. Yount, Diane Paul, Debra Hampton, Amy P. Abernethy, Paul B. Jacobsen, Karen Syrjala, and Jamie H. Von Roenn

Recent guidance from the FDA discusses patient-reported outcomes as end points in clinical trials. Using methods consistent with this guidance, the authors developed symptom indexes for patients with advanced cancer. Input on the most important symptoms was obtained from 533 patients recruited from NCCN Member Institutions and 4 nonprofit social service organizations. Diagnoses included bladder, brain, breast, colorectal, head and neck, hepatobiliary/pancreatic, kidney, lung, ovarian, and prostate cancers and lymphoma. Physician experts in each of these diseases were also surveyed to differentiate symptoms that were predominantly disease-based from those that were predominantly treatment-induced. Results are evaluated alongside previously published indexes for 9 of these 11 advanced cancers that were created based on expert provider surveys, also implemented at NCCN Member Institutions. Final results are 11 symptom indexes that reflect the highest priorities of people affected by these 11 advanced cancers and the experienced perspective of the people who provide their medical treatment. Beyond the clinical value of such indexes, they may also contribute significantly to satisfying regulatory requirements for a standardized tool to evaluate drug efficacy with respect to symptomatology.

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NCCN Task Force Report: Management of Neuropathy in Cancer

Michael D. Stubblefield, Harold J. Burstein, Allen W. Burton, Christian M. Custodio, Gary E. Deng, Maria Ho, Larry Junck, G. Stephen Morris, Judith A. Paice, Sudhakar Tummala, and Jamie H. Von Roenn

Neuropathy is a common, often debilitating complication of cancer and its treatment. Effective management of this disorder depends on early diagnosis and an understanding of its underlying causes in the individual patient. In January 2009, NCCN gathered a multidisciplinary group to review the literature and discuss intervention strategies currently available to patients as well as areas that require research efforts. The task force, which comprised experts in anesthesiology, medical oncology, neurology, neuro-oncology, neurophysiology, nursing, pain management, and rehabilitation, was charged with the goal of outlining recommendations for the possible prevention, diagnosis, and management of neuropathy. This report documents the proceedings of this meeting with a general background on neuropathy and neuropathy in oncology, followed by discussions on challenges and research issues, evaluation criteria, and management of different symptoms associated with this disorder.

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Palliative Care

Michael H. Levy, Anthony Back, Costantino Benedetti, J. Andrew Billings, Susan Block, Barry Boston, Eduardo Bruera, Sydney Dy, Catherine Eberle, Kathleen M. Foley, Sloan Beth Karver, Sara J. Knight, Sumathi Misra, Christine S. Ritchie, David Spiegel, Linda Sutton, Susan Urba, Jamie H. Von Roenn, and Sharon M. Weinstein

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Palliative Care

Michael H. Levy, Michael D. Adolph, Anthony Back, Susan Block, Shirley N. Codada, Shalini Dalal, Teresa L. Deshields, Elisabeth Dexter, Sydney M. Dy, Sara J. Knight, Sumathi Misra, Christine S. Ritchie, Todd M. Sauer, Thomas Smith, David Spiegel, Linda Sutton, Robert M. Taylor, Jennifer Temel, Jay Thomas, Roma Tickoo, Susan G. Urba, Jamie H. Von Roenn, Joseph L. Weems, Sharon M. Weinstein, Deborah A. Freedman-Cass, and Mary Anne Bergman

These guidelines were developed and updated by an interdisciplinary group of experts based on clinical experience and available scientific evidence. The goal of these guidelines is to help patients with cancer experience the best quality of life possible throughout the illness trajectory by providing guidance for the primary oncology team for symptom screening, assessment, palliative care interventions, reassessment, and afterdeath care. Palliative care should be initiated by the primary oncology team and augmented by collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of palliative care experts.