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  • Author: Thomas W. LeBlanc x
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Thomas W. LeBlanc and Amy P. Abernethy

Palliative care is increasingly seen as a standard component of high-quality comprehensive cancer care. However, several challenges remain to its widespread integration into clinical oncology practice, including workforce problems, reimbursement concerns, and a fledgling evidence base. This article discusses issues surrounding evidence base development in palliative cancer care, using the example of a recently published randomized controlled trial of oxygen versus room air. The Oxygen Trial randomized patients with refractory dyspnea and adequate Pao2 to oxygen or room air, administered via nasal cannula. Both groups experienced improvements in self-rated dyspnea scores, but no statistical differences were seen between intervention arms. These results suggest that supplementary oxygen is often unnecessary in the palliative setting, and that room air is similarly efficacious. This example highlights the importance and need for ongoing development of the evidence base in palliative medicine. The Palliative Care Research Cooperative (PCRC) is a novel National Institute of Nursing Research-funded research infrastructure that seeks to expand the palliative care evidence base. Its first multisite trial was recently completed, assessing the pragmatic question of whether statin medications can be safely discontinued in end-of-life settings. The PCRC will be a vehicle through which a high-quality evidence base will continue to expand and develop. Such ongoing research efforts are needed to inform and improve palliative care practice.

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Jesse D. Troy, Carlos M. de Castro, Mary Ruth Pupa, Greg P. Samsa, Amy P. Abernethy and Thomas W. LeBlanc

Background: NCCN defines distress as a multifactorial, unpleasant emotional experience of a psychological nature that may interfere with patients' ability to cope with cancer symptoms and treatment. Patients with myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are at risk for distress due to the largely incurable nature of this hematopoietic malignancy and its symptom burden, yet associations with clinical outcomes are unknown. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed patient-reported distress data from adult ambulatory patients with MDS visiting a single, tertiary care medical center from July 2013 to September 2015. Demographic, diagnostic, treatment, and comorbidity information were abstracted from records along with NCCN Distress Thermometer (DT) and Problem List (PL) scores. Survival was analyzed using the Kaplan-Meier method and Cox proportional hazards regression. Results: We abstracted 376 DT scores (median, 1; range, 0–10) from 606 visits and 110 patients (median, 2 DT scores/patient; range, 1–16). NCCN Guidelines suggest that patients with DT scores ≥4 should be evaluated for referral to specialty services to address unmet needs. A total of 54 patients (49%) had at least 1 DT score ≥4 and 20 (18%) had 2 or more DT scores ≥4; 98 patients (89.1%) reported 1,379 problems during 23,613 person-days of follow-up (median, 4 problems/patient/visit; range, 1–23). The 5 most frequently reported problems were fatigue (181 times; 78 patients), pain (95 times; 46 patients), worry (80 times; 45 patients), sleep (78 times; 41 patients), and tingling hands/feet (68 times; 33 patients). After adjustment for risk stratification at diagnosis, a single point increase on the DT was associated with an increased risk of death (hazard ratio, 1.18; 95% CI, 1.01–1.36). Conclusions: Patients with MDS experience a high burden of distress, and patient-reported distress is associated with clinical outcomes. Distress should be further studied as a prognostic variable and a marker of unmet needs in MDS.

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Eric J Roeland, Thomas W. LeBlanc, Kathryn J. Ruddy, Ryan Nipp, Rebecca Clark-Snow, Rita Wickham, Gary Binder, William L. Bailey, Ravi Potluri, Luke M. Schmerold, Eros Papademetriou and Rudolph M. Navari

Background: Avoiding acute care services can improve cancer care and reduce cost. The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) new oncology outcome measure (OP-35) defines 30-day post-chemotherapy inpatient (IP) and/or emergency department (ED) events (IP/ED) as “potentially avoidable” if involving any of 10 toxicities, including nausea or vomiting (NV). Evidence demonstrates meaningful gaps in oncologists’ adherence to antiemetic prophylaxis guidelines for highly emetogenic chemotherapy (HEC), and that NV-related IP use costs >$10,000; yet the incidence of avoidable acute care events involving NV is not well studied. Methods: We assessed chemotherapy courses using IBM Explorys electronic health records (4Q 2012–1Q 2018). We identified rates of IP/ED ≤30 days post-chemotherapy, and OP-35 toxicities (NV, anemia, dehydration, diarrhea, fever, neutropenia, pain, pneumonia, or sepsis) by ICD-9, ICD-10, procedure codes, and CMS criteria. We evaluated cisplatin, anthracycline + cyclophosphamide (AC), carboplatin (>14 days apart, as a proxy for AUC ≥4), oxaliplatin (OX), and other non-HEC chemotherapy. We assessed guideline adherence, defined as triple prophylaxis (NK1 RA + 5HT3 RA +dexamethasone) rates at HEC initiation. Results: In 17,609 HEC and 56,624 non-HEC courses, we observed 30-day IP/ED utilization in 29% and 19% of courses, respectively (). For HEC, 76% of IP/ED use involved ≥1 of the 10 CMS toxicities, most often anemia (42%), pain (41%), dehydration (24%), and NV (24%). Rates of all-cause IP/ED, IP/ED with OP-35 toxicity, and NV-related IP/ED were consistent for HEC and OX. Gaps in triple prophylaxis were common in HEC. Conclusion: Roughly one-third of patients receiving HEC or OX experienced IP/ED events ≤30 days after chemotherapy. Three-quarters of IP/ED events involved ≥1 of 10 OP-35 toxicities linked by CMS to potentially avoidable acute care; of these, one-third involved NV. NV-associated acute care use is considerable, costly, and potentially avoidable with better adherence to antiemesis guidelines.

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Eric J. Roeland, Kathryn J. Ruddy, Thomas W. LeBlanc, Ryan D. Nipp, Gary Binder, Silvia Sebastiani, Ravi Potluri, Luke Schmerold, Eros Papademetriou, Lee Schwartzberg and Rudolph M. Navari

Background: Clinician adherence to antiemetic guidelines for preventing chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) caused by highly emetogenic chemotherapy (HEC) remains poorly characterized. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate individual clinician adherence to HEC antiemetic guidelines. Patients and Methods: A retrospective analysis of patients receiving HEC was conducted using the IBM Watson Explorys Electronic Health Record Database (2012–2018). HEC antiemetic guideline adherence was defined as prescription of triple prophylaxis (neurokinin-1 receptor antagonist [NK1 RA], serotonin type-3 receptor antagonist, dexamethasone) at initiation of cisplatin or anthracycline + cyclophosphamide (AC). Clinicians who prescribed ≥5 HEC courses were included and individual guideline adherence was assessed, noting the number of prescribing clinicians with >90% adherence. Results: A total of 217 clinicians were identified who prescribed 2,543 cisplatin and 1,490 AC courses. Patients (N=4,033) were primarily women (63.3%) and chemotherapy-naïve (92%) with a mean age of 58.6 years. Breast (36%) and thoracic (19%) cancers were the most common tumor types. Guideline adherence rates of >90% were achieved by 35% and 58% of clinicians using cisplatin or AC, respectively. Omission of an NK1 RA was the most common practice of nonadherence. Variation in prophylaxis guideline adherence was considerable for cisplatin (mean, 71%; SD, 29%; coefficient of variation [CV], 0.40) and AC (mean, 84%; SD, 26%; CV, 0.31). Conclusions: Findings showed substantial gaps in clinician adherence to HEC CINV guidelines, including a high variability across clinicians. Clinicians should review their individual clinical practices and ensure adherence to evidence-based CINV guidelines to optimize patient care.

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Alexandra K. Zaleta, Melissa F. Miller, Julie S. Olson, Eva Y.N. Yuen, Thomas W. LeBlanc, Craig E. Cole, Shauna McManus and Joanne S. Buzaglo

Background: New therapies for multiple myeloma (MM) have improved survival rates but often expose patients to heightened toxicities and prolonged treatment, leading to increasing complications and side effects. We evaluated the association between symptom burden, perceived control over illness, and quality of life (QoL) among a national sample of patients with MM. Methods: For this observational, cross-sectional study, we used data from the Cancer Experience Registry research initiative to examine symptom- and functioning-related concerns among 289 patients with MM across the illness trajectory. We applied hierarchical multiple linear regression analyses to explore associations between symptom burden and perceived control over illness with QoL indicators: depression, anxiety, and social satisfaction. Results: In our sample, 73% of participants with MM reported currently receiving treatment; 39% experienced relapse; 56% received 1 to 2 autologous transplants, 10% received ≥3 autologous transplants, and 4% received allogeneic and autologous transplants; 30% had not received a stem cell transplant. Average time since diagnosis was 4.4 years. The most highly endorsed concerns included eating and nutrition (61%), physical activity (59%), moving around (56%), fatigue (55%), pain (52%), and sleep (46%). Only 27% believed they had control over their disease, whereas 48% perceived having control over the physical side effects of MM. Approximately one-third of the variance in anxiety and depression and nearly two-thirds of variance in social satisfaction were explained by sociodemographic, clinical, and symptom burden variables. Perceived control over illness significantly predicted depression and anxiety, but not social satisfaction. Our results highlight substantial concern among patients with MM about physical symptoms and function. Additionally, greater symptom burden significantly accounted for poorer QoL, and lower perceived control over illness was linked to depression and anxiety. Conclusions: Patients with MM and survivors experience substantive long-term QoL issues. Together, these findings point to the critical need for comprehensive symptom management, integrated palliative care, and enhancement of social and emotional support for individuals with MM.

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Martin S. Tallman, Eunice S. Wang, Jessica K. Altman, Frederick R. Appelbaum, Vijaya Raj Bhatt, Dale Bixby, Steven E. Coutre, Marcos De Lima, Amir T. Fathi, Melanie Fiorella, James M. Foran, Aric C. Hall, Meagan Jacoby, Jeffrey Lancet, Thomas W. LeBlanc, Gabriel Mannis, Guido Marcucci, Michael G. Martin, Alice Mims, Margaret R. O’Donnell, Rebecca Olin, Deniz Peker, Alexander Perl, Daniel A. Pollyea, Keith Pratz, Thomas Prebet, Farhad Ravandi, Paul J. Shami, Richard M. Stone, Stephen A. Strickland, Matthew Wieduwilt, Kristina M. Gregory, OCN, Lydia Hammond and Ndiya Ogba

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the most common form of acute leukemia among adults and accounts for the largest number of annual deaths due to leukemias in the United States. Recent advances have resulted in an expansion of treatment options for AML, especially concerning targeted therapies and low-intensity regimens. This portion of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) for AML focuses on the management of AML and provides recommendations on the workup, diagnostic evaluation and treatment options for younger (age <60 years) and older (age ≥60 years) adult patients.