Palliative chemotherapy: oxymoron or misunderstanding?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Oncologists routinely prescribe chemotherapy for patients with advanced cancer. This practice is sometimes misunderstood by palliative care clinicians, yet data clearly show that chemotherapy can be a powerful palliative intervention when applied appropriately. Clarity regarding the term "palliative chemotherapy" is needed: it is chemotherapy given in the non-curative setting to optimize symptom control, improve quality of life, and sometimes to improve survival. Unfortunately, oncologists lack adequate tools to predict which patients will benefit. In a study recently published in BMC Palliative Care, Creutzfeldt et al. presented an innovative approach to advancing the science in this area: using patient reported outcomes to predict responses to palliative chemotherapy. With further research, investigators may be able to develop predictive models for use at the bedside to inform clinical decision-making about the risks and benefits of treatment. In the meantime, oncologists and palliative care clinicians must work together to reduce the use of "end-of-life chemotherapy"-chemotherapy given close to death, which does not improve longevity or symptom control-while optimizing the use of chemotherapy that has true palliative benefits for patients.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Roeland, EJ; LeBlanc, TW

Published Date

  • March 21, 2016

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 15 /

Start / End Page

  • 33 -

PubMed ID

  • 27000049

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4802642

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1472-684X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/s12904-016-0109-4


  • eng

Conference Location

  • England