Early palliative care versus standard care in haematologic cancer patients at their last active treatment: study protocol of a feasibility trial

Silvia Tanzi, Stefano Luminari, Silvio Cavuto, Elena Turola, Luca Ghirotto, Massimo Costantini

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BACKGROUND: Patients with advanced haematological malignancies suffer from a very high symptom burden and psychological, spiritual, social and physical symptoms comparable with patients with metastatic non-haematological malignancy. Referral to palliative care services for these patients remains limited or often confined to the last days of life. We developed a palliative care intervention (PCI) integrated with standard haematological care. The aim of the study was focussed on exploring the feasibility of the intervention by patients, professionals and caregivers and on assessing its preliminary efficacy.

METHODS/DESIGN: This is a mixed-methods phase 2 trial. The Specialist Palliative Care Team (SPCT) will follow each patient on a monthly basis in the outpatient clinic or will provide consultations during any hospital admission. SPCT and haematologists will discuss active patient issues to assure a team approach to the patient's care. This quantitative study is a monocentric parallel-group superiority trial with balanced randomisation comparing the experimental PCI plus haematological standard care versus haematological standard care alone. The primary endpoint will calculate on adherence to the planned PCI, measured as the percentage of patients randomised to the experimental arm who attend all the planned palliative care visits in the 24 weeks after randomisation. The qualitative study follows the methodological indications of concurrent nested design and was aimed at exploring the acceptability of the PCI from the point of view of patients, caregivers and physicians.

DISCUSSION: In this trial, we will test the feasibility of an integrated palliative care approach starting when the haematologist decides to propose the last active treatment to the patient, according to his/her clinical judgement. We decided to test this criterion because it is able to intercept a wide range of patients'needs. The feasibility of this approach requires that we enrol at least 60 patients and that more than 50% of them be followed by the palliative care team for at least 24 weeks. The trial will include integrated qualitative data analysis; to give essential information on feasibility and acceptability.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT03743480 (November 16, 2018).

Original languageEnglish
Article number53
JournalBMC Palliative Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 22 2020


  • Clinical Protocols
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Hematologic Neoplasms/psychology
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care/methods
  • Psychometrics/instrumentation
  • Qualitative Research
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


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