Thoughtful contributions focused on improving the overall quality of life of cancer patients:

Chronic cancers switch focus onto symptoms
By Michael Slezak

With cancer increasingly becoming
a chronic disease, a greater
interdisplinary focus is needed on
cancer-related symptoms, a visiting
US specialist told the Sydney
Cancer Conference yesterday.
“We need to dramatically increase
our investment in symptom
research,” said Professor Cleeland
from the University of Texas.
Included in what he was
calling the “symptom burden,”
were the effects of the
agents used to treat cancer,
“Increasingly we’re recognising
in the major cancer centres
in the US that patients don’t
take their therapy,” he said.
“They either have symptoms
that are toxic enough to cause the
clinical team to call a stop, or the
patients themselves to call a stop.”
“We are more dependent on
oral medication now, and oral
medication introduces the patient’s
ability to make decisions about
the dose they take during the
week. Many agents cause severe
social and vocational disruption
and we’re seeing patients reduce
their weekly dose, taking three
pills instead of four pills,” he said.
Professor Cleeland added that
the treatment of symptoms is
of increasing importance since
“cancer is increasingly a chronic
disease. Patients who would
have lived a year or so are living
for five years or more.”
He outlined several developments
in multidisciplinary research that
have provided a “framework for a
better understanding of how cancerrelated
symptoms are generated”:
Early clinical trials of symptom
interventions such as selective
cytokine blockade may make treatment
more tolerable and lessen the
presence of persistent symptoms
for cancer survivors, he said.
Longitudinal symptom-report
data have shown how different
symptoms cluster together,
and this has allowed researchers
to correlate them with biological
activity such as inflammatory
responses to cancer and treatment,
Professor Cleeland added.
Research has also identified
genetic sub-groups of patients who
are at an increased risk of symptomatic
response to treatment, while
brain imaging studies have provided
information about the “cortical representation
of symptoms” he said.

Food for thought. Oncologists need to take a page from the oncology nurse’s playbook and pay more attention to minimizing side-effects and overall patient quality of life.

Feel good and keep smiling! Pat & Pattie

Leave a Reply