Optimizing care in early phase cancer trials: The role of palliative care

Fionnuala Crowley, Richard Sheppard, Stephanie Lehrman, Eve Easton, Thomas U. Marron, Deborah Doroshow, Debora Afezolli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Advancements in cancer treatment have led to improved survival rates, with early phase clinical trials (EPCTs) serving as important initial steps in evaluating novel therapies. Recent studies have shown that response rates in these trials have doubled in the last twenty years. Patients who enroll on EPCTs have advanced cancer and heightened symptomatology yet maintain a robust performance status that qualifies them for clinical trial participation. It is well established that many of these patients have needs that can be addressed by palliative care, including symptom management, value assessments, advance care planning, and psychosocial and spiritual support. Several small studies have aimed to identify the most beneficial palliative care intervention for this cohort of patients, ranging from formal clinic-based multidisciplinary palliative care interventions to home-based interventions. While outcomes have trended towards benefit for patients, especially pertaining to psychological well-being, most studies were not powered to detect additional benefits for improved physical symptom management, reduction in care utilization or increased length of time on trial. In this review, we discuss the unique palliative care needs of this population and what we can learn from results of past interventional studies. We advocate for a tailored palliative care approach that acknowledges the time toxicity experienced by patients enrolled in EPCTs and address challenges posed by shortages within the palliative care workforce.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102767
JournalCancer Treatment Reviews
StatePublished - Jul 2024


  • Early phase clinical trials
  • Palliative care
  • Supportive oncology


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