Press Releases

Lung Cancer Patients Receiving Palliative Care Lived Over Two Months Longer

New Study Shows Impact of Early Palliative Care Intervention

New York, NY (September 19, 2010) — Receiving palliative care early in the treatment of advanced lung cancer not only improved quality of life but also survival, according to a study released today in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital found that lung cancer patients receiving early palliative care intervention experienced less depression, improved quality of life and survived for approximately 2.7 months longer.

The results of the study underscore palliative care as an appropriate and beneficial intervention when it is introduced from the time of diagnosis of a serious or life-limiting illness — and in conjunction with all other appropriate and beneficial medical treatments.

“Palliative care has consistently proven to be beneficial to patients facing serious and complex illness,” says Diane E. Meier, MD, Director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care. “This study should encourage patients to seek palliative care early in the course of their illness.”

The study compared patients with newly diagnosed metastatic non small-cell lung cancer who received only standard cancer treatment to those receiving palliative care alongside usual cancer treatment, from the point of diagnosis.

According to Meier’s editorial in the same issue, “The reasons for the 2.7-month survival benefit in the palliative care group — a benefit that is equivalent to that achieved with a response to standard chemotherapy regimens — are unknown but may result from effective treatment of depression, improved management of symptoms, or a reduction in the need for hospitalization.”

A total of 151 patients were studied over the course of three years. They received questionnaires at the outset of enrollment and then 12 weeks later in order to measure mood and quality of life. Participants receiving palliative services met with a palliative care clinician once they enrolled and at least once a month thereafter. They were less likely to choose aggressive treatment, yet lived longer on average.

Palliative care is the medical specialty focused on improving overall quality of life for people facing serious and life-threatening illness. Emphasis is placed on pain and symptom control, intensive communication, including family support and shared decision-making, and coordination of care. Palliative care is not dependent on prognosis.

Until a decade ago, palliative care in the U.S. was typically available only to patients living at home and enrolled in hospice. Today, the majority of U.S hospitals report having a palliative care program.

About the Center to Advance Palliative Care

The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) provides health care professionals with the tools, training, and technical assistance necessary to start and sustain successful palliative care programs in hospitals and other health care settings. Located at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, CAPC is a national organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality palliative care services for people facing serious illness. www.capc.org

Related Links

Early Palliative Care for Patients with Metastatic Non–Small-Cell Lung Cancer
Palliative Care — A Shifting Paradigm
Video Interview with NEJM study authors, Jennifer Temel, MD and Victoria Jackson, MD, MPH.

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Contact: Sadia Choudhury, Center to Advance Palliative Care, Mount Sinai Medical Center 212-201-2673 or sadia.choudhury@mssm.edu

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