Early Palliative Care Shows Improvement in Patient Survival, Caregiver Experiences

Results of a new randomized clinical trial undertaken by researchers from the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock hospital notes significant improvement in several measures for cancer patients and caregivers from the early initiation of palliative care measures. The findings are published this month in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. This is the most recent in a series of ENABLE (Educate, Nurture, Advise Before Life Ends) trials aimed at establishing the beneficial effects of palliative care on overall survival by interventions targeting patient outcomes.

The team's previous ENABLE II trial established that a carefully designed intervention for patients with late stage cancers improved both quality of life and survival. The recently published ENABLE III study found that an earlier intervention strategy improved survival further. Investigators examined outcomes of palliative care beginning at the first visit or 3 months later among 207 patients with late stage cancer. Though the early-entry participants' patient reported outcomes were not statistically different from the late-entry participants', their 1-year survival after enrollment was improved compared to those who entered later. Additionally, outcomes for caregivers, as measured by lower depression scores, and reduced stress burden, were improved by early intervention.

A news story about the research findings may be read here.

A journal editorial commenting on the research may be read here.

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