Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Palliative care extends life for lung cancer patients

Patients with advanced lung cancer who got early palliative care - treatment focused on pain management and controlling symptoms - lived longer and had better quality of life than those who received aggressive treatment, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday. Researchers from Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and the State University of New York-Buffalo randomly assigned 151 patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer to get either palliative care integrated with standard cancer treatment or standard treatment alone.

Palliative care extends life for lung cancer patients

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Patients with advanced lung cancer who got early palliative care - treatment focused on pain management and controlling symptoms - lived longer and had better quality of life than those who received aggressive treatment, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine Thursday.

Researchers from Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and the State University of New York-Buffalo randomly assigned 151 patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer to get either palliative care integrated with standard cancer treatment or standard treatment alone.

The mood and quality of life of the patients was assessed at the start of the study and after 12 weeks. Twenty-seven of the patients died in the first 12 weeks and another 17 failed to complete the second assessment, leaving 107 patients to the full study.

The researchers found that at 12 weeks, patients assigned to palliative care had significantly better quality of life scores (98.0 verses 91.5 on a 136 point scale). Moreover, fewer of the palliative care group developed symptoms of depression (16 percent verses 38 percent in the standard care group).

And the researchers found that despite getting less aggressive end-of-life treatment, the palliative care group lived an average of nearly three months longer than the group that received the oncologic care alone (11.6 months verses 8.9 months).

The researchers concluded that “early palliative care led to significant improvements in both quality of life and mood. As compared with patients receiving standard care, patients receiving early palliative care had less aggressive care at the end of life but longer survival.”

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Check Up is a blog for savvy health consumers, covering the latest developments, discoveries, and debates from the Philadelphia area and beyond.

Portions of this blog may also be found in the Inquirer's Sunday Health Section.

Charlotte Sutton Health and Science Editor, Philadelphia Inquirer
Tom Avril Inquirer Staff Writer, heart health and general science
Stacey Burling Inquirer Staff Writer, neuroscience and aging
Marie McCullough Inquirer Staff Writer, cancer and women's health
Don Sapatkin Inquirer Staff Writer, public health
David Becker, M.D. Board certified cardiologist, Chestnut Hill Temple Cardiology
Michael R. Cohen, R.Ph. President, Institute for Safe Medication Practices
Daniel R. Hoffman, Ph.D. President, Pharmaceutical Business Research Associates
Hooman Noorchashm, M.D., Ph.D. Cardiothoracic surgeon in the Philadelphia area
Amy J. Reed, M.D., Ph.D. Anesthesiologist and Surgical Intensivist in the Philadelphia Area
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