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Relationship Between Perceptions of Treatment Goals and Psychological Distress in Patients With Advanced Cancer

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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Pilot Randomized Trial of a Transdisciplinary Geriatric and Palliative Care Intervention for Older Adults With Cancer

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.

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Screening Tool Identifies Older Adults With Cancer at Risk for Poor Outcomes

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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Group Coping Intervention in Patients With Chronic Graft-Versus-Host Disease: A Pilot Randomized Clinical Trial

Ashley M. Nelson, Daniel Yang, Annemarie D. Jagielo, Jennifer D’Alotto, Cathleen Poliquin, Dustin J. Rabideau, Katherine G. Cronin, Richard A. Newcomb, Yi-Bin Chen, Zachariah DeFilipp, Joseph A. Greer, Areej El-Jawahri, and Lara Traeger

Background: More than half the long-term survivors of allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation develop chronic graft-versus-host disease (GVHD), a debilitating inflammatory syndrome. Supportive interventions to assist survivors in coping with chronic GVHD are critically needed. Patients and Methods: We conducted a pilot randomized clinical trial of a multidisciplinary group intervention (Horizons Program; n=39) versus minimally enhanced usual care (n=41) for patients with moderate or severe chronic GVHD. Horizons participants received 8 weekly sessions about GVHD and coping co-led by a transplant clinician and a behavioral health expert via a secure videoconferencing platform. Participants completed the following surveys before randomization, at 10 weeks, and at 18 weeks: Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–Bone Marrow Transplant Scale (FACT-BMT) for quality of life (QoL), Lee Symptom Scale for symptom burden, and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale–Depression Symptoms (HADS) for mood. The primary endpoint was feasibility (≥50% enrollment, ≥80% attendance in half the sessions for the Horizons arm only, and ≥80% retention). We also explored preliminary efficacy of the Horizons intervention on changes in patient-reported outcomes with linear mixed effects models and estimates of effect size at 10 weeks. Results: We enrolled and registered 80 (67.2%) of 119 eligible patients (mean age, 62 years; 48.8% female). Of the participants in the Horizons Program, 84.6% attended at least half the sessions. Of registered participants, 91.3% completed assessment follow-ups (Horizons, 35/39 [89.7%]; minimally enhanced usual care, 38/41 [92.7%]). Horizons participants reported improvements in QoL (b = 2.24; d=0.53), anxiety symptoms (b = –0.10; d=0.34), and depression symptoms (b = –0.71; d=0.44) compared with participants who received minimally enhanced usual care. Conclusions: Participation in a multidisciplinary group intervention study was feasible for patients with chronic GVHD, with promising signals for improving QoL and mood. A full-scale efficacy trial is needed to confirm effects on patient-reported outcomes.