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Vol. LXV, No. 16
August 2, 2013

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Integrating Palliative, Oncology Care Shows Benefit

NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady (l) and Dr. Jennifer Temel at the end-of-life and palliative care special interest group lecture
NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady (l) and Dr. Jennifer Temel at the end-of-life and palliative care special interest group lecture
When palliative care is introduced early in the course of advanced cancer, it has been shown to enhance quality of life and improve mood. Dr. Jennifer Temel, an NINR grantee, is one of the leading researchers in this field and gained national attention when she and her colleagues published a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine titled, “Early palliative care for patients with metastatic non-small-cell lung cancer.” The study showed the benefits of early introduction of palliative care “on patient-reported outcomes and end-of-life care among ambulatory patients with newly diagnosed disease.” The study, along with her more recent work, laid the foundation for the presentation Temel gave to the NIH end-of-life and palliative care special interest group and guests recently.

The lecture was hosted by NINR. Research into end-of-life and palliative care is a focus for the institute, as reflected in its strategic plan. NINR director Dr. Patricia Grady welcomed Temel and emphasized the importance of the scientific advances being made in this field. In an NIH radio interview last fall, Grady said, “When palliative care is available, the symptoms of pain or distress are usually reduced so that patients are able to enjoy better quality of life.”

In addition to improvements in mood and quality of life, integrating palliative care early in the course of a cancer illness has been shown to affect chemotherapy use. During the lecture, Temel discussed a study that found that patients who received palliative care services had optimal timing of their final chemotherapy administration and transition to hospice; both factors are measures of quality of end-of-life care. She noted that it is new cancer treatments along with palliative care to manage pain and other symptoms that have enabled patients to live more fully, more comfortably, more optimally and with a sense of control of their advanced care management.

Temel, clinical director of thoracic oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate director of the Dana-Farber/Partners Cancer Care hematology/oncology fellowship, also presented data from a study she is currently conducting, which is funded by NINR. The study will compare early integrated palliative and oncology care versus oncology care alone in 350 patients with advanced thoracic and gastrointestinal malignancies. To close the lecture, Temel shared ideas and plans for future directions in her research.

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