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Early palliative care for adults with advanced cancer

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, June 2017
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  • In the top 5% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (98th percentile)
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (94th percentile)

Mentioned by

229 tweeters
2 Facebook pages


53 Dimensions

Readers on

153 Mendeley
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Early palliative care for adults with advanced cancer
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, June 2017
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd011129.pub2
Pubmed ID

Markus W Haun, Stephanie Estel, Gerta Rücker, Hans-Christoph Friederich, Matthias Villalobos, Michael Thomas, Mechthild Hartmann


Incurable cancer, which often constitutes an enormous challenge for patients, their families, and medical professionals, profoundly affects the patient's physical and psychosocial well-being. In standard cancer care, palliative measures generally are initiated when it is evident that disease-modifying treatments have been unsuccessful, no treatments can be offered, or death is anticipated. In contrast, early palliative care is initiated much earlier in the disease trajectory and closer to the diagnosis of incurable cancer. To compare effects of early palliative care interventions versus treatment as usual/standard cancer care on health-related quality of life, depression, symptom intensity, and survival among adults with a diagnosis of advanced cancer. We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, Embase, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PsycINFO, OpenGrey (a database for grey literature), and three clinical trial registers to October 2016. We checked reference lists, searched citations, and contacted study authors to identify additional studies. Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and cluster-randomised controlled trials (cRCTs) on professional palliative care services that provided or co-ordinated comprehensive care for adults at early advanced stages of cancer. We used standard methodological procedures as expected by Cochrane. We assessed risk of bias, extracted data, and collected information on adverse events. For quantitative synthesis, we combined respective results on our primary outcomes of health-related quality of life, survival (death hazard ratio), depression, and symptom intensity across studies in meta-analyses using an inverse variance random-effects model. We expressed pooled effects as standardised mean differences (SMDs, or Hedges' adjusted g). We assessed certainty of evidence at the outcome level using GRADE (Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation) and created a 'Summary of findings' table. We included seven randomised and cluster-randomised controlled trials that together recruited 1614 participants. Four studies evaluated interventions delivered by specialised palliative care teams, and the remaining studies assessed models of co-ordinated care. Overall, risk of bias at the study level was mostly low, apart from possible selection bias in three studies and attrition bias in one study, along with insufficient information on blinding of participants and outcome assessment in six studies.Compared with usual/standard cancer care alone, early palliative care significantly improved health-related quality of life at a small effect size (SMD 0.27, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.15 to 0.38; participants analysed at post treatment = 1028; evidence of low certainty). As re-expressed in natural units (absolute change in Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-General (FACT-G) score), health-related quality of life scores increased on average by 4.59 (95% CI 2.55 to 6.46) points more among participants given early palliative care than among control participants. Data on survival, available from four studies enrolling a total of 800 participants, did not indicate differences in efficacy (death hazard ratio 0.85, 95% CI 0.56 to 1.28; evidence of very low certainty). Levels of depressive symptoms among those receiving early palliative care did not differ significantly from levels among those receiving usual/standard cancer care (five studies; SMD -0.11, 95% CI -0.26 to 0.03; participants analysed at post treatment = 762; evidence of very low certainty). Results from seven studies that analysed 1054 participants post treatment suggest a small effect for significantly lower symptom intensity in early palliative care compared with the control condition (SMD -0.23, 95% CI -0.35 to -0.10; evidence of low certainty). The type of model used to provide early palliative care did not affect study results. One RCT reported potential adverse events of early palliative care, such as a higher percentage of participants with severe scores for pain and poor appetite; the remaining six studies did not report adverse events in study publications. For these six studies, principal investigators stated upon request that they had not observed any adverse events. This systematic review of a small number of trials indicates that early palliative care interventions may have more beneficial effects on quality of life and symptom intensity among patients with advanced cancer than among those given usual/standard cancer care alone. Although we found only small effect sizes, these may be clinically relevant at an advanced disease stage with limited prognosis, at which time further decline in quality of life is very common. At this point, effects on mortality and depression are uncertain. We have to interpret current results with caution owing to very low to low certainty of current evidence and between-study differences regarding participant populations, interventions, and methods. Additional research now under way will present a clearer picture of the effect and specific indication of early palliative care. Upcoming results from several ongoing studies (N = 20) and studies awaiting assessment (N = 10) may increase the certainty of study results and may lead to improved decision making. In perspective, early palliative care is a newly emerging field, and well-conducted studies are needed to explicitly describe the components of early palliative care and control treatments, after blinding of participants and outcome assessors, and to report on possible adverse events.

Twitter Demographics

The data shown below were collected from the profiles of 229 tweeters who shared this research output. Click here to find out more about how the information was compiled.

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 153 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Unknown 153 100%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Master 32 21%
Student > Ph. D. Student 22 14%
Other 18 12%
Unspecified 17 11%
Researcher 13 8%
Other 50 33%
Unknown 1 <1%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 63 41%
Nursing and Health Professions 30 20%
Unspecified 28 18%
Social Sciences 8 5%
Psychology 8 5%
Other 15 10%
Unknown 1 <1%

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 147. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 04 February 2019.
All research outputs
of 12,493,082 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 8,745 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 265,255 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 173 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 12,493,082 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 99th percentile: it's in the top 5% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 8,745 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 20.9. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 97% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 265,255 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 98% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 173 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has done particularly well, scoring higher than 94% of its contemporaries.