Providing palliative care is a responsibility that all of us share, each and every clinician that interacts with a cancer patient—whether you are an oncologist, infusion nurse, social worker, or specialty palliative care clinician.
—Jennifer S. Temel, MD
Palliative care is essential to good cancer care, but it is a topic that can raise red flags because of the common misperception that it is reserved for those in the terminal stage of the disease. In truth, palliative care is highly necessary for all patients with cancer, and when it is integrated into a treatment plan, evidence reveals that it results in improved outcomes for patients and their families.
The Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, to be held October 24 to 25 in Boston, highlights the critical need driving the integration of palliative and supportive care into cancer care. Cosponsored by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), and the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer (MASCC), this inaugural event will bring together the cancer community—including oncologists, nurses, advanced practice providers, health services researchers, and other interdisciplinary stakeholders—for a focused dialogue on palliative care in oncology and how it can enhance the value of cancer care.
Increased Focus on Palliative Care
“Providing palliative care is a responsibility that all of us share, each and every clinician that interacts with a cancer patient—whether you are an oncologist, infusion nurse, social worker, or specialty palliative care clinician,” said Jennifer S. Temel, MD, Clinical Director of Thoracic Oncology and Associate Director of the Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care Hematology/Oncology Fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital. “This Symposium will specifically present the state-of-the-art science behind providing cancer care that best supports patients and their families.”
Improving outcomes has always been integral to ASCO’s mission, and the Society continues to champion quality in cancer care. While the Society has addressed palliative care–related issues through sessions at the ASCO Annual Meeting and as part of other events and campaigns, this Symposium will bring exclusive focus to palliative care in oncology. ASCO’s fellow cosponsoring organizations also recognize this need and have partnered with the Society to bring palliative care to the forefront, acknowledging that value in cancer care is measured, in part, by the patient experience.
“The integration of palliative care into oncology is just the definition of good oncology care. We don’t provide good oncology care if we don’t integrate palliative care,” said Jamie Von Roenn, MD, Senior Director of Education, Science, and Professional Development at ASCO.
Palliative care is sometimes used synonymously with end-of-life care, due to its specialized focus on relieving patient suffering. In fact, when cancer patients hear “palliative care,” they often assume they’re in the terminal stages of the disease. However, palliative care isn’t about simply ensuring comfort at the end of life; it’s key to delivering quality cancer care, starting from diagnosis and continuing through survivorship care.
Symposium Borne Out of Patient Need
Michael J. Fisch, MD, MPH, Chair of the Symposium’s Steering Committee and Chair of the Department of General Oncology at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, said, “The underlying need for this Symposium is patient-driven. Every cancer patient is concerned with how they’re going to live their life and how the treatments will affect them. Palliative care can help them live as well as possible in the face of their illness. Getting palliative care involved as you begin a treatment plan can be beneficial to ensure the least amount of suffering, good symptom control, and the control of distress and disruption in life.”
While aspects of good symptom control and pain management are already integrated into oncology care, the Symposium will focus on more than managing the physical effects of cancer treatment. Sessions will focus on the physical—the biology of pain and fatigue, targeted therapy, symptom science in preventing and treating acute effects of treatment, risk prediction models for treatment toxicities, biologic mechanisms and the underlying basis of cognitive complaints—and also psychosocial and emotional well-being of cancer patients. In addition, it will highlight the full spectrum of palliative care needed for patients at every stage of the disease—from diagnosis through treatment to survivorship and/or end of life.
Oral Abstract and Poster Sessions
In addition to educational sessions, the Symposium will feature scientific abstracts in oral and poster sessions. Abstracts are currently being accepted on a range of topics, including:
Patient-Reported Outcomes: Mechanisms of Symptoms and Treatment Toxicities
Early Integration of Palliative Care in Cancer Care
For submission guidelines and to submit an abstract, visit pallonc.org
/abstracts. The submission deadline is July 1, 2014, at 11:59 PM EDT. Each first author will receive a letter of notification via email regarding abstract selection in mid-August.
Spotlight on State-of-the-Art Practices
Abstracts and didactic talks will examine the latest research findings and state-of-the-art practices, bringing specialized focus to the science behind palliative care. Session chairs and speakers are among the most recognized leaders in palliative care and oncology—an international panel of experts. Symposium highlights begin with the very first session, which explores the mechanisms, measurement, and management of palliative and supportive care and discusses the entire scope of symptom science.
“It’s all about making sure we understand the science behind what’s occurring, and that we can intercede in a mechanistically based way that has the best chance of reducing the impact of toxicities,” said Dorothy M.K. Keefe, MD, FRACP, President of MASCC, Service Director of South Australian Cancer Services, Professor of Cancer Medicine at the University of Adelaide, and Senior Consultant Medical Oncologist at Royal Adelaide Hospital, “The session specifically focuses on what we know about the state-of-the-art bits of cancer care, including the science behind why the patient isn’t well and how we can intervene in that.”
Integrating Palliative Care Into Cancer Care
Other sessions will explore survivorship issues, end-of-life care, and psycho-oncology. Several sessions will also examine the complexities of integrating palliative care into cancer care. Casting light on differing perspectives and what characterizes palliative and supportive care, the sessions will serve as a catalyst for discussion, and highlight different models of integrated care. Dr. Fisch noted, “We’ll discuss these palliative care issues from a palliative care (AAHPM), supportive oncology (MASCC), and oncology (ASCO) perspective. We’ll acknowledge that palliative care is provided within all of these perspectives, but exactly how it should be integrated will require exploration, dialogue, and innovation.”
“Every session will foster collaboration, present new research, generate novel ideas, and explore how we can move palliative care—and the field of oncology—forward,” added Dr. Temel.
For the latest details and to register to attend the Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, visit pallonc.org. ■
© 2014. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.