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Study measures quality of life impact from palliative care for mesothelioma

Media release

Patients diagnosed with a rare and aggressive type of lung cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) do not have an improved quality of life if offered additional early specialist palliative care support, Curtin University-led research has found.

The research, presented at the World Conference on Lung Cancer in Yokohama, Japan, explored whether patients diagnosed with MPM, who are more likely to have severe symptoms such as breathlessness, weight loss and pain, would demonstrate improved quality of life with early palliative care support.

MPM is caused by exposure to asbestos and Australia has one of the highest rates of MPM in the world, affecting an estimated 700 people each year.

Lead researcher Associate Professor Fraser Brims from the Curtin Medical School at Curtin University said the research was significant because it provided key insights for patients diagnosed with MPM.

“Previous research has shown a significant improvement in reported quality of life among advanced lung cancer patients as a result of early palliative care so I was intrigued to see if it could lead to similar findings in patients with MPM,” Associate Professor Brims said.

“As part of an international trial, newly diagnosed MPM participants were randomly split into two groups, one group was given early specialist palliative care and standard care, and the other received standard care only.

“The quality of life and mood of the participants was assessed every four weeks up to 24 weeks, using two questionnaires to measure quality of life, anxiety and depression.”

Associate Professor Brims said the results from the trial were surprising.

“At the start of the study, many of us intuitively thought that the additional holistic, expert care would benefit those diagnosed with MPM,” Associate Professor Brims said.

“Our results indicate that there is no role for routine early referral to palliative care, regardless of symptoms, as there was no impact on quality of life or mood in the trialled participants.

“The timing of referral to palliative care for patients diagnosed with MPM should continue to be based on clinicians’ judgement, but these findings provide key insights into healthcare provision and will be useful for recently diagnosed patients, their families and healthcare professionals.”

The research was presented by Associate Professor Brims at the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) 18th World Conference on Lung Cancer (WCLC) in Yokohama, Japan.