Notes on ESMO17: Psycho-oncology

Clinical Brief – September, 28th

ESMO, or the European Society of Medical Oncology Congress, is an annual gathering of cancer experts and patient advocates. Here are some studies from this year’s ESMO that may be of use.

Physicians and patients might have different takes on side effects when it comes to cancer treatments, says a study led by researchers at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

The study looked at data collected from a randomized Phase III trial comparing different chemo regimens in women with high-risk breast cancer.

Patients reported any problems they had during the trial using a validated questionnaire that measured their quality of life (EORTC QLQ-C30). Physicians reported potential side effects using the standard CTCAE instrument.

Researchers then looked at symptoms that were reported by both patients and physicians. For instance, where a physician would tick off “diarrhea” the patient would answer the question “Have you had diarrhea?”

Looking through the symptom reporting forms, researchers found that the CTCAE physicians use “does not mirror the total patient experience.”

Question is, which one makes more sense, and in which setting?

Abstract #1422O

A Japanese study suggested that patients with lung cancer may do better if they had greater family support.

This isn’t exactly news, but the way they pulled this study off was a bit strange.

Researchers from Kyushu University, Japan, followed nearly 200 patients with non-small-cell lung cancer who underwent curative surgery.

They found that patients with children had significantly longer overall survival than those who did not. Their language was particularly grating about patients who were hitched but did not have kids.

“Childless patients with a partner showed a particularly shorter overall survival…than those with children <p<0.001).”

– Takamori S, et al.

Ok, so maybe having kids isn’t such a bad thing. Now, I’m all for raising awareness of the importance of family support when going through treatments for cancer. But when an abstract is littered with “childless-patients”, it’s just unnecessary.

Abstract #1428P

Physician burnout is a serious issue that could bode poorly for patients needing complex care.

But what about those on the front lines of clinical research? Clinical research lies at the foundation of evidence-based medicine. Arguably, burnt out research coordinators may raise doubts about the validity of trials they run.

Researchers from Italy ran a study with about 130 clinical research coordinators to assess their workload and stress level.

On average, clinical research coordinators worked 42 hours/week managing 25 studies. Just under 9 in 10 felt stressed and about 6 in 10 believed that it negatively affected the quality of their work.

Contrary to what I’d expect, the workload was only a major contributor to stress in fewer than 1 in 5 coordinators. On the other hand, nearly half said that the type of contract they were under was a major source of stress.

Time to consider fresh rounds of renegotiations?

“Burnout [depended] on…qualitative factors such as lack of skills recognition and contractual instability.”

– Cagnazo C, et al.

Abstract #1433P

For more presentations from #ESMO17, take a look at my hand-curated Twitter moment 🤓.


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