Earlier multidisciplinary palliative care intervention for people with lung cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Slavica Kochovska, Diana H. Ferreira, Tim Luckett, Jane L. Phillips, David C. Currow


Lung cancer is the most common cancer and leading cause of cancer mortality globally. Lung cancer is associated with significant morbidity, with symptoms often being poorly managed, causing significant symptom burden for both patients and their family caregivers. In people with life-limiting illnesses including advanced cancer, palliative care has been effective in improving symptom control, physical and mental wellbeing, quality of life, and survivorship; with benefits extending to caregivers while in the role and subsequently. Earlier integration of palliative care within oncology may be associated with improved patient outcomes, and has been supported by two Lancet commissions and national guidelines. The evidence for its effectiveness, however, has been mixed across the cancer spectrum. The aim of this review was to evaluate the current evidence for the effectiveness of early integrated palliative care in improving outcomes for people with lung cancer and their caregivers. Meta-analyses were performed where studies used the same measure. Otherwise, synthesis used a narrative approach. Similar to other types of advanced cancer, this review reveals mixed evidence for the effectiveness of early referral to palliative care and for the effectiveness of individual palliative interventions for people with lung cancer and their caregivers. Evidence that on-demand palliative care is equally, if not more effective than palliative care that is routinely provided, raises the question whether initiation and provision of palliative care as part of multidisciplinary lung cancer care ought to be guided by an early referral or need-based referral. Better understanding of what constitutes palliative care when delivered to people with lung cancer and their caregivers will help delineate the correlation with reported outcomes for these populations.