Dr Adam Olszewski: Early Palliative Care Is Important and Beneficial for Patients With Blood Cancers

February 15, 2020

Evidence is showing that early palliative care can be beneficial for patients with blood cancers, who receive very intense treatments that impact quality of life, said Adam Olszewski, MD, associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Evidence is showing that early palliative care can be beneficial for patients with blood cancers, who receive very intense treatments that impact quality of life, said Adam Olszewski, MD, associate professor of medicine at The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Transcript

How does having access to palliative care services earlier impact quality of a patient’s end of life?

Interestingly, the issue of care has been extensively researched the solid tumor oncology. And we have very good high-level phase 3 evidence that early palliative care improves patients outcomes, surprisingly, not only at the level of symptom control and psychosocial or psychological benefits, which you would expect, but also in terms of survival. And these were very surprising data. And we are really eagerly awaiting replicating this in the setting of hematology.

There's a very, very strong wave currently over the past 2, 3 years to increase the access to palliative care among patients with blood cancers. And there are great leaders in the fields who are just pushing forward towards more and more patients receiving this care. And certainly institutions that adopt this practice, like ours, where essentially all patients undergoing aggressive therapy for leukemias and other blood cancers, receive a component of palliative care, can see on anecdotal basis the benefit of it—the effects on the patient’s comfort, on the quality of symptom management, that ultimately trickles down into the ability to deliver the treatment safely and the patient's adherence to therapy.

So, there are multiple benefits I think that can be realized in hematology, where treatments can be very intense and are often causing significant detriment to quality of life while the disease itself may not be hurting, as pain is not the main components of symptoms from blood cancers. These new benefits I think will be it will be visible in clinical trials as we as we tried to conduct them.

But I think there's a piece of it that involves research and a piece of it that involves advocacy. And I think it becomes very clear to anyone who involves early palliative care in the care of their patients with leukemias and lymphomas is that some benefits are being realized. So obviously, and so drastically, that it's just a really, really major component of treatments once you realize it.