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Phase I cancer trials: a qualitative study of specialist palliative care


Objective In recent years, a simultaneous care model for advanced cancer patients has been recommended meaning that palliative care services are offered throughout their cancer journey. To inform the successful adoption of this model in a phase I trial context, the study aimed to explore patients’ care needs and their perceptions of specialist palliative care.

Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 10 advanced cancer patients referred to the Experimental Cancer Medicine team. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and thematically analysed with a framework approach to data organisation.

Results Despite reporting considerable physical and psychological impacts from cancer and cancer treatment, participants did not recognise a need for specialist palliative care support. Understanding of the role of specialist palliative care was largely limited to end of life care. There was perceived conflict between considering a phase I trial and receiving specialist palliative care. Participants felt specialist palliative care should be introduced earlier and educational resources developed to increase patient acceptability of palliative care services.

Significance of results Patients with advanced cancer referred for phase I trials are likely to benefit from specialist palliative care. However, this study suggests patients may not recognise a need for support nor accept this support due to misperceptions about the role of palliative care. Developing a specific educational resource about specialist palliative care for this population would help overcome barriers to engaging with a simultaneous care model.

  • palliative care
  • cancer
  • clinical trials
  • symptoms and symptom management

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