A new study published in the journal The Lancet Oncology suggest that early and systematic integration of palliative care in oncologic care improves the quality of life (QOL) for patients with advanced cancer.

Evidence from prior studies have suggested that the early addition of palliative care to standard treatment for cancer may improve patient QOL, but due to increased psychosocial support.

In Belgium, psychosocial care is part of standard oncological care. The aim of this randomized controlled trial is to examine whether the early and systematic integration of palliative care alongside standard psychosocial oncological care provides added benefit compared with usual care.

For this nonblinded study, researchers enrolled 186 patients and randomly assigned them, by block design using a computer-generated sequence, either to early and systematic integration of palliative care into oncological care, or standard oncological care alone.

Study patients were required to complete the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality-of-Life Questionnaire Core 30 (EORTC QLQ C30; version 3) and the McGill Quality of Life Questionnaire (MQOL) at baseline; at 12, 18, and 24 weeks; and every 6 weeks thereafter.

At 12 weeks, study adherence was 71% in the early palliative care arm and 72% in the standard care arm. The overall QOL as measured by the EORTC QLQ C30 was improved in the early palliative arm group compared with the standard care arm (61.98 vs 54.39), and in the MQOL single item scale as well (7.05 vs 5.94).

The findings of this study show that a model of early and systematic integration of palliative care in oncological care increases the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer.

The authors concluded that “early and systematic integration of palliative care is more beneficial for patients with advanced cancer than palliative care consultations offered on demand, even when psychosocial support has already been offered. Through integration of care, oncologists and specialized palliative care teams should work together to enhance the quality of life of patients with advanced cancer.”