Association of Early Palliative Care With Chemotherapy Intensity in Patients With Advanced Stage Lung Cancer: A National Cohort Study

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Introduction: Patients with advanced lung cancer have a poor prognosis, but both chemotherapy and early palliative care (EPC) have been shown to improve survival and quality of life (QOL). The relationship between palliative care and receipt of chemotherapy receipt is understudied. We sought to determine if EPC is associated with chemotherapy receipt and intensity among patients with advanced stage lung cancer. Methods: Retrospective cohort study of patients in the national Veterans Health Administration (VA) with stage IIIB or IV lung cancer diagnosed between January 2007- December 2013. EPC was defined as a specialist-delivered palliative care received within 90 days of cancer diagnosis. Outcomes included any chemotherapy receipt and high-intensity chemotherapy receipt defined as: i) more than 4 cycles of a platinum-based doublet, ii) ≥3 lines of chemotherapy, iii) Bevacizumab/Cetuximab triplet therapy, iv) Erlotinib use prior to 2011, and v) chemotherapy in the last days of life. Logistic regression was used to determine the association between EPC and chemotherapy receipt after adjustment for patient and tumor characteristics. Results: Among the entire cohort (N=23,566), 37% received EPC and 45% received any chemotherapy. Among those with EPC, 34% received chemotherapy compared to 51% among those without EPC (Adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR=0.55, 95% CI: 0.51-0.58). Patients who received EPC had reduced receipt of high-intensity chemotherapy including >4 cycles of platinum-based doublet (AOR=0.68, 95% CI: 0.60-0.77), ≥ 3 lines of chemotherapy (AOR=0.61, 95% CI: 0.53-0.71), triplet therapy (AOR=0.68, 95% CI: 0.56-0.82) and use of erlotinib prior to 2011 (AOR=0.66, 95% CI: 0.55-0.79). Patients with EPC were more likely to receive chemotherapy in the last 14 (AOR=1.65, 95% CI: 1.44-1.87) and 30 days (AOR=1.67, 95% CI: 1.51-1.85) of life compared to those without EPC. Conclusions: EPC was associated with reduced receipt of both any chemotherapy and high-intensity chemotherapy. However, receipt of chemotherapy at the very end-of-life was increased among patients with EPC compared to those without EPC. Among patients with advanced lung cancer, EPC may optimize patient selection for chemotherapy receipt leading to reduced use of high-intensity therapy by focusing on quality of life in accordance with patients’ performance, preferences and goals of care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-183
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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