Early and systematic integration of palliative care in oncologic care improves the quality of life (QOL) for patients with advanced cancer compared with palliative care on demand, according to a study published in The Lancet Oncology.

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 the complex multidisciplinary nature of oncologic care, the added value of early palliative care requires further investigation.

For this nonblinded study, researchers enrolled 186 patients and randomly assigned them to receive early and systematic palliative care plus standard oncologic care or standard oncologic 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.

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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 authors concluded that “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.”


Vanbutsele G, Pardon K, Van Belle S, et al. Effect of early and systematic integration of palliative care in patients with advanced cancer: a randomised controlled trial [published online February 3, 2018]. Lancet Oncol. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(18)30060-3