Latest Australian Research

The following lists palliative care research primarily conducted by Australian research groups. The list is based on application of the CareSearch search filter for palliative care to identify articles held within the PubMed database and corresponding to the strongest evidence. Articles have been selected based on relevance and new articles are added on a weekly basis.

Whilst not an exhaustive list, the aim is to keep the community informed by providing a snapshot of recent research findings and planned studies in the Australian setting.

 

16 December 2019

The role of comorbidity assessment in guiding treatment decision-making for women with early breast cancer: a systematic literature review.

Webster S, Lawn S, Chan R, Koczwara B.

PURPOSE:
Comorbidity in breast cancer patients impacts treatment choice, toxicity, and outcomes. While comorbidity measurement tools are frequently used by researchers, little is known about their use in clinical practice. The aim of this review was to examine the use of comorbidity measurement tools in clinical practice and their role in treatment decision-making in breast cancer.

METHODS:
Six electronic databases were searched from inception to 21 March 2019. Quantitative or mixed methods studies addressing primary treatment of breast cancer and identifying a comorbidity measurement tool used in clinical practice treatment decision-making were included. Data was extracted on tool utilized, impact on treatment decisions or outcomes, pattern of use, and psychometric properties.

RESULTS:
A systematic search of literature yielded 752 studies. Of the four studies that met inclusion criteria, each utilized a comprehensive geriatric assessment tool, though only in a subset of patients. No studies found direct comorbidity measurement tools utilized independently of geriatric assessment. Assessment results had variable impact on treatment decisions. Impacts on patient mortality and treatment toxicity, cost-effectiveness, and psychometric characteristics of the tools were not identified.

CONCLUSIONS:
There is little evidence on use of specific comorbidity tools in clinical decision-making in breast cancer outside of comorbidity assessment as part of geriatric assessment tools. There was limited impact on decision-making or patient outcomes when these were utilized. Further research is needed to identify barriers to comorbidity assessment in clinical practice and identify comorbidity tools that have the potential to improve patient outcomes.

9 December 2019

Oral medicinal cannabinoids to relieve symptom burden in the palliative care of patients with advanced cancer:

a double-blind, placebo controlled, randomised clinical trial of efficacy and safety of cannabidiol (CBD).

Good P, Haywood A, Gogna G, Martin J, Yates P, Greer R, Hardy J.

BACKGROUND:
Despite improvements in medical care, patients with advanced cancer still experience substantial symptom distress. There is increasing interest in the use of medicinal cannabinoids, but there is little high quality evidence to guide clinicians. This study aims to define the role of cannabidiol (CBD) in the management of symptom burden in patients with advanced cancer undergoing standard palliative care.

METHODS AND DESIGN:
This study is a multicentre, randomised, placebo controlled, two arm, parallel trial of escalating doses of oral CBD. It will compare efficacy and safety outcomes of a titrated dose of CBD (100 mg/mL formulation, dose range 50 mg to 600 mg per day) against placebo. There is a 2-week patient determined titration phase, using escalating doses of CBD or placebo to reach a dose that achieves symptom relief with tolerable side effects. This is then followed by a further 2-week assessment period on the stable dose determined in collaboration with clinicians.

DISCUSSION:
A major strength of this study is that it will target symptom burden as a whole, rather than just individual symptoms, in an attempt to describe the general improvement in wellbeing previously reported by some patients in open label, non controlled trials of medicinal cannabis. Randomisation with placebo is essential because of the well-documented over reporting of benefit in uncontrolled trials and high placebo response rates in cancer pain trials. This will be the first placebo controlled clinical trial to evaluate rigorously the efficacy, safety and acceptability of CBD for symptom relief in advanced cancer patients. This study will provide the medical community with evidence to present to patients wishing to access medicinal cannabis for their cancer related symptoms.

9 December 2019

An Open-Label Pilot Study Testing the Feasibility of Assessing Total Symptom Burden in Trials of Cannabinoid Medications in Palliative Care.

Good PD, Greer RM, Huggett GE, Hardy JR.

BACKGROUND:
There is considerable interest in the use of cannabinoids for symptom control in palliative care, but there is little high-quality evidence to guide clinical practice.

OBJECTIVES:
Assess the feasibility of using global symptom burden measures to assess response to medicinal cannabis, to determine median tolerated doses of cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and to document adverse events (AEs).

DESIGN:
Prospective two-arm open-label pilot trial of escalating doses of CBD and THC oil.

SETTING/SUBJECTS:
Participants had advanced cancer and cancer-related symptoms in a palliative and supportive care service in an Australian cancer center.

MEASUREMENTS:
The main outcome measures were the number of participants screened and randomized over the time frame, the number of participants completing days 14 and 28 and providing total symptom distress scores (TSDSs) (measured using the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale), and the change from baseline of the TSDS at day 14.

RESULTS:
Of the 21 participants enrolled (CBD, n = 16; THC, n = 5), 18 (86%) completed the primary outcome measure at day 14 and 8 completed at day 28. The median maximum tolerated doses were CBD, 300 mg/day (range 100-600 mg); THC, 10 mg/day (range 5-30 mg). Nine of 21 patients (43%) met the definition of response (≥6 point reduction in TSDS). Drowsiness was the most common AE.

CONCLUSIONS:
Trials of medicinal cannabis in advanced cancer patients undergoing palliative care are feasible. The doses of THC and CBD used in this study were generally well tolerated and the outcome measure of total symptom distress is promising as a measure of overall symptom benefit. 

9 December 2019

Perspectives of people with dementia and carers on advance care planning and end-of-life care: A systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies.

Sellars M, Chung O, Nolte L, Tong A, Pond D, Fetherstonhaugh D, McInerney F, Sinclair C, Detering KM.

BACKGROUND:
Advance care planning aims to ensure that care received during serious and chronic illness is consistent with the person’s values, preferences and goals. However, less than 40% of people with dementia undertake advance care planning internationally.

AIM:
This study aims to describe the perspectives of people with dementia and their carers on advance care planning and end-of-life care.

DESIGN:
Systematic review and thematic synthesis of qualitative studies.

DATA SOURCES:
Electronic databases were searched from inception to July 2018.

RESULTS:
From 84 studies involving 389 people with dementia and 1864 carers, five themes were identified: avoiding dehumanising treatment and care (remaining connected, delaying institutionalisation, rejecting the burdens of futile treatment); confronting emotionally difficult conversations (signifying death, unpreparedness to face impending cognitive decline, locked into a pathway); navigating existential tensions (accepting inevitable incapacity and death, fear of being responsible for cause of death, alleviating decisional responsibility); defining personal autonomy (struggling with unknown preferences, depending on carer advocacy, justifying treatments for health deteriorations); and lacking confidence in healthcare settings (distrusting clinicians’ mastery and knowledge, making uninformed choices, deprived of hospice access and support at end of life).

CONCLUSION:
People with dementia and their carers felt uncertain in making treatment decisions in the context of advance care planning and end-of-life care. Advance care planning strategies that attend to people’s uncertainty in decision-making may help to empower people with dementia and carers and strengthen person-centred care in this context.

9 December 2019

Economic evaluation of the randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of subcutaneous ketamine in the management of chronic cancer pain

McCaffrey N, Flint T, Kaambwa B, Fazekas B, Rowett D, Currow DC, Hardy J, Agar MR, Quinn S, Eckermann S.

BACKGROUND:
Treating chronic, uncontrolled, cancer pain with subcutaneous ketamine in patients unresponsive to opioids and co-analgesics remains controversial, especially in light of recent evidence demonstrating ketamine does not have net clinical benefit in this setting.

AIM:
To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of subcutaneous ketamine versus placebo in this patient population.

DESIGN AND SETTING:
A within-trial cost-effectiveness analysis of the Australian Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative’s randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of ketamine was conducted from a healthcare provider perspective. Mean costs and outcomes were estimated from participant-level data over 5 days including positive response, health-related quality of life (HrQOL) measured with the Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy–Palliative Care (FACIT-Pal), ketamine costs, medication usage and in-patient stays.

RESULTS:
There was no statistically significant difference in responder rates, but higher toxicity and worse HrQOL for ketamine participants (mean change −3.10 (standard error (SE) 1.76), ketamine n = 93; 4.53 (SE 1.38), placebo n = 92). Estimated total mean costs were AU$706 higher per ketamine participant (AU$6608) compared with placebo (AU$5902), attributable to the cost of higher in-patient costs as well as costs of ketamine administration. The results were robust to sensitivity analyses accounting for different medication use costing methods and removal of cost outliers.

CONCLUSION:
The findings suggest subcutaneous ketamine in conjunction with opioids and standard adjuvant therapy is neither an effective nor cost-effective treatment for refractory pain in advanced cancer patients.

9 December 2019

Effectiveness of interventions to increase participation in advance care planning for people with a diagnosis of dementia: A systematic review.

Bryant J, Turon H, Waller A, Freund M, Mansfield E, Sanson-Fisher R.

BACKGROUND:
Advance care planning involves considering, discussing and documenting future wishes in case a person is unable to make or communicate decisions. Given people with dementia are at high risk of future decisional incapacity, it is critical that advance care planning occurs early in the illness trajectory.

AIM:
To determine (1) the number of intervention studies published between 1997 and July 2017 that aimed to increase advance care planning for persons with dementia, (2) the methodological quality of studies and (3) the effectiveness of interventions in increasing advance care planning for persons with dementia.

DESIGN:
Systematic review.

DATA SOURCES:
Medline, Cochrane, EMBASE, PsycINFO and CINAHL were searched for articles published from 1997 to July 2017. Studies were included if they utilised a methodologically robust study design and reported on an intervention designed to increase participation in advance care planning for persons with dementia that was targeted at the person with dementia and/or a carer/family member. Methodological quality was assessed independently by two authors.

RESULTS:
Four studies met the criteria for inclusion. Methodological quality was variable. Two studies did not report analyses comparing advance care planning outcomes for intervention and control participants. A third study found no effect for a nurse-facilitator intervention. The fourth study found that a structured conversation about end-of-life care with a family member increased the likelihood of advance care orders being listed in residents’ records.

CONCLUSION:
There is little evidence about effective strategies to improve participation in advance care planning for persons with dementia. Methodologically rigorous intervention trials are needed to test interventions that encourage timely participation.

9 December 2019

The Gosport War Memorial Hospital Panel report and its implications for nursing.

Darbyshire P, Ion R.

2 December 2019

Antimicrobial use in patients at the end of life in an Australian hospital.

Dyer J, Vaux L, Broom A, Broom J.

BACKGROUND:
Antimicrobial resistance is increasing and there is an urgent international imperative to optimise use within hospitals. Antibiotic use at the end of life is frequent in the hospital setting, but data on use in Australian hospitals in this context is limited, and optimisation is complicated by clinical/diagnostic, ethical and humanistic considerations. As yet there is little data available on baseline use in hospital end of life settings, an empirical gap we sought to begin to fill here.

METHODS:
A retrospective review of antibiotic use in patients who died in a Queensland hospital between January 2015 and July 2015.

RESULTS:
One hundred and thirty-seven patients were included, of which 73 were male (53.3%) and the median age was 81 years. Of these patients, 86 received antibiotics at the end of life. The most common antibiotic prescribed was piperacillin/tazobactam (41.9%). The most common site of infection was pulmonary (32.8%). Of 86 patients prescribed antibiotics, 29 patients (33.7%) received antibiotics after futility was documented. 83 patients (96.5%) were administered their antibiotics intravenously.

CONCLUSION:
Antimicrobial use at the end of life is frequent, with greater than one third of the patients who died in hospital having their antibiotics continued after discussion of futility. Antimicrobial use in this setting is complex with significant clinical, social and ethical considerations which need to be addressed if antibiotic optimization in this area (and more broadly in the hospital) is to be achieved.

2 December 2019

Palliative Care: A Systematic Review of Evidence-Based Interventions.

Riahi S, Khajehei M. 

The authors conducted an integrative review to determine evidence-based and most efficient strategies for improving the palliative care of patients at the end-of-life stage. Thirteen articles that met the overall inclusion criteria were evaluated. The Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses flowchart approach was used for the screening process. The Critical Appraisal Skill Program and the Mixed-Methods Appraisal Tool were also used for the critical appraisal of the data. Full reports of relevant articles were retrieved, and data were extracted by 2 reviewers independently. The quality of studies was appraised in reference to Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research guidelines. Key aspects included communication and coordination among the team members-patient-centered approach. The major theme was the application of a holistic approach to palliative care consisting of providing comfort to the dying patient. It was identified that relationships, which were identified as spiritual needs, are also crucial to the improvement of palliative care. Improving nursing education in this area, undertaking appropriate curriculum development, and providing coordination among training programs will help knowledgeable health care providers deliver compassionate, affordable, sustainable, and high-quality care to a growing population of aging patients facing the end of their lives.

25 November 2019

Systematic review of anti-inflammatory agents for the management of oral mucositis in cancer patients and clinical practice guidelines.

Ariyawardana A, Cheng KKF, Kandwal A, Tilly V, Al-Azri AR, Galiti D, Chiang K, Vaddi A, Ranna V, Nicolatou-Galitis O, Lalla RV, Bossi P, Elad S.

PURPOSE:
The aim of this systematic review was to update the clinical practice guidelines for the use of anti-inflammatory agents in the prevention and/or treatment of oral mucositis.

METHODS:
A systematic review was conducted by the Multinational Association of Supportive Care in Cancer/ International Society of Oral Oncology (MASCC/ISOO) subcommittee on mucositis guideline update. The body of evidence for each intervention, in each cancer treatment setting, was assigned an evidence level. The findings were added to the database used to develop the clinical practice guidelines published in 2014. Based on the evidence level, one of the following three guideline determinations was possible: recommendation, suggestion, and no guidelines.

RESULTS:
A total of 11 new papers across five interventions were examined. The recommendation for the use of benzydamine mouthwash for the prevention of radiotherapy-induced mucositis remained unchanged. New suggestion for the use of the same for prevention of mucositis associated with chemoradiotherapy was made. No guideline was possible for any other anti-inflammatory agents due to inadequate and/or conflicting evidence.

CONCLUSIONS:
Of the anti-inflammatory agents studied for oral mucositis, the evidence supports the use of benzydamine mouthwash in the specific populations listed above. Additional well-designed research is needed on other (class of agents) interventions and in other cancer treatment settings.

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