Supportive Care in Lung Cancer: The Past 40 Years

2015    The year 2014 marked the 40th anniversary of the International Association of the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), a global organization that works to enhance the understanding of lung cancer among scientists, members of the medical community, and the public.* MASCC and IASLC frequently collaborate to address the challenges of lung cancer, its symptoms, including cough and breathlessness, and their management. The new MASCC Respiratory Study Group has identified breathlessness as its first priority for developing evidence-based guidelines.

In recognition of IASLC’s 40th anniversary, Professor Alex Molassiotis, of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and colleagues from the Netherlands, the United States, and Australia, have recently published a review of the evolution and progress of supportive care in lung cancer. The paper highlights developments in the field, milestones over the past four decades, and future directions for research and practice.

From the 1980s onward, the medical literature has reflected a growing awareness of supportive care needs in general and a proliferation of research on topics critical to supportive care and quality of life. With respect to lung cancer in particular, areas of importance include needs identification, symptom management, psychosocial issues, quality of life, smoking cessation, and new service delivery models.

Over the past four decades, emphasis has shifted from case-driven issues of palliative and end-of-life care to a multidisciplinary and evidence-based approach. Clinical studies of quality of life and patient-reported outcomes have highlighted the need for measurement tools specific to patients with lung cancer. Other new areas of research include the impact of psychosocial and emotional factors on overall prognosis, the effects of continued smoking, health complications among long-term survivors, and the risks and benefits of best supportive care versus treatment.

The authors present a thorough review of both the evolution of supportive care and the wide range of noninvasive interventions now available. They make clear that supportive care has tremendous potential to improve quality of life as well as survival. And yet, patients with lung cancer — a group shown to experience a greater burden of distress than patients with other types of cancer — still have many unmet needs. The authors point out the urgent need to develop more effective interventions and models of care and to rigorously evaluate their benefits to both patients and caregivers. The continued collaborative efforts of MASCC and the IASLC will be crucial to meeting this goal.

For more information about supportive care in lung cancer, see: Molassiotis A, Uyterlinde W, Hollen PJ, Sarna L, Palmer P, Krishnasamy M. Supportive care in lung cancer: Milestones over the past 40 years. J Thorac Oncol. 2015, 10(1):11-18.

*IASLC publishes the Journal of Thoracic Oncology. Its 16th World Conference on Lung Cancer will be held in September, 2015, in Denver, Colorado, USA.

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