Researchers at a tertiary care center in Canada recently determined that fewer than half of the patients seen at their center for advanced cancer treatment had received palliative care services through the center before death. The researchers also evaluated patterns associated with the center’s palliative care consultations and reported their findings in the journal The Oncologist.

This study was based at the Cross Cancer Institute (CCI), a tertiary care center in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The researchers performed a secondary analysis of health data for 2253 patients seen at the CCI who had advanced cancer and who had died. Factors that might be associated with receipt of the CCI’s palliative care services among these patients were evaluated.

A total of 810 of the patients, or 36% of the study population, had been found to receive a palliative care consultation through the CCI program. These occurred at a median time of 2 months (range, 1.1-5.4) before death.

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The majority of the patients (1439) in the study population had been residents of Edmonton. Among those who were local residents, 1121 patients (78%) participated in consultations through the Edmonton Zone Palliative Care Program, which includes the CCI’s services.

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Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to determine factors associated with the odds of receiving a palliative care consultation through the CCI program. These included younger age, residence in the Edmonton Zone, time between diagnosis of advanced cancer to death, higher income, and type of cancer. Patients with gastrointestinal cancers had the highest odds of receiving a palliative care consultation through the CCI.

“A minority of patients with advanced cancer received palliative care consultation at our tertiary cancer center, occurring late in the disease trajectory,” wrote the researchers in their report. They also indicated that receipt of palliative care consultations at their center varied widely and that the reasons for this should be explored further.


Watanabe SM, Faily V, Mawani A, et al. Frequency, timing, and predictors of palliative care consultation in patients with advanced cancer at a tertiary cancer center: secondary analysis of routinely collected health data [published online May 22, 2020]. Oncologist. doi: 10.1634/theoncologist.2019-0384