immunotherapy and the miracle cure

Another insightful article from Dr Ranjana Sriastava, a Melbourne medical oncologist and writer, encapsulates my recent experience as a palliative care doctor on the frontline between hope and dying in a cancer centre.
The anticipated miracles of cancers dissolving before our eyes are common enough for patients and doctors to push on with expensive, sometimes self-funded treatment (at great cost) in preference to the needed preparation by patient and family for dying. For a patient and family perspective, skip down to the comments after the article and read HugiHugo’s description of his wife’s last months while undergoing treatment.

A patient with widely disseminated and aggressive melanoma having immunotherapy grunted at me in frustration last month. “Listen,” he said, “they are all high-fiving over there in the oncology clinic. Why do you want to talk about end of life stuff? It’s really confusing.” Pretty appalled at the idea that we were giving the patient mixed messages, I was fortunate to be able to do a joint consultation with the patient’s medical oncologist to nut out our different perceptions. Unfortunately for the patient, his oncologist confirmed that the treatment was very unlikely to be a miracle and most patients in his situation would live less than a year. To say that the patient was shocked was an understatement. Had he not been referred to my team for symptom management, this conversation would have happened later – or never.

Evidence is emerging that outcomes of immunotherapy in patients with poor performance status are very unimpressive. Patients with poor performance status had been excluded from initial trials.
Where does the deficit in our communication of hope lie? Is it in the delivery by the doctor? The reception by the patient? A bit of both? How can we accurately respond to the portrayal of immunotherapy in the media and social media as a miracle cure, and allow for the possibility of benefit without downplaying the risks?

Sonia

 

 

#CrazySocks4Docs on June 1st

 

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Crazy Socks for Docs – by Dr Eric Levi @DrEricLevi

June 1st. #CrazySocks4Docs. But not just for Docs only. This day is for nurses, dentists, pharmacists, social workers, physiotherapists, psychologists, dietitians, speech pathologists, audiologists, respiratory therapists, anaesthesia techs, paramedics, medical students, veterinarians and all other specialties that work in the health care industry for patients. Continue reading

Journal club on delirium #hpmjc

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Delirium is a syndrome associated with a sudden change in a person’s mental function that interferes with their thinking and awareness. It is a common problem that confronts many patients, families and clinicians in the palliative care setting. Delirium usually develops as a result of a serious medical condition, which can often be found and treated. However, the symptoms of delirium – such as fluctuating confusion, reduced attention, disturbed sleep-wake cycle, and/or hallucinations – can be very distressing for everyone involved, and may persist for many days to weeks.

Medications – including antipsychotics such as haloperidol and risperidone – are often used to manage the symptoms of delirium. But do they actually work?

To answer this question, Professor Meera Agar (@meera_agar) and colleagues from the Palliative Care Clinical Studies Collaborative (PaCCSC) conducted a study examining the use of these medications. The results of their research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine recently, and also discussed on various media platforms (examples here, here and here).

Please join Hospice and Palliative Medicine Journal Club (#hpmjc) in January 2017 for an in-depth discussion about this important study. The journal club will be hosted by Chi Li (@Dr_Chi_Li) from Palliverse and feature the paper’s first author, Meera Agar (@meera_agar)!

When? The hour-long online journal club will start at (please note the different dates):

  • Auckland: 9am, Tuesday 24th January
  • Sydney: 7am, Tuesday 24th January
  • London: 8pm, Monday 23rd January
  • New York / Toronto: 3pm, Monday 23rd January
  • Other cities

Who? Anyone and everyone who has:

  • Experienced delirium themselves
  • Cared for or lived with someone with delirium
  • An interest in improving the treatment of delirium
  • An interest in enhancing palliative care

How? It’s easy!

What? We will be discussing the following topics during the journal club

  • Topic 1: Why was the study conducted? Are the study questions / aims relevant to you and/or your work?
  • Topic 2: How was the study conducted? What did you like about the study methodology? Would you have done anything differently?
  • Topic 3: What were the main findings from the study? Were you surprised by any of the study results?
  • Topic 4: Has this study changed the way you think about delirium in the palliative care setting? Why and why not? What’s next?

If you would like more information, or are having trouble accessing the paper, please feel free to contact us via Twitter (@Dr_Chi_Li or @palliverse) or by email (chi.li.australia@gmail.com or palliverse@gmail.com).

We hope you can join us for a great discussion about this important study!

 

Living with grief & loss: #PallANZ chat

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Grief and loss is something we will all face at different times throughout our lives. Whether it is the death of our pets, our friends, our children, siblings or parents; the experience and expression of grief in response to these losses can be a very personal and individual thing. Grief can also arise in anticipation of loss. For those living with life-limiting illness, living with the loss of social role and professional identity can be especially challenging.

Thoughts about old, new and future losses can be particularly common during the festive season. For some of us, it may represent an anniversary of the death of a loved one, and bring with it painful memories of loss. Some might be facing their first Christmas ‘alone’, while others may be grappling with the possibility of celebrating their ‘last Christmas’.

While living with grief and loss is a personal experience, we don’t have to endure it on our own. As a community, there are many ways that we can support each other. Join Palliverse and Palliative Care Australia CEO Liz Callaghan (@PCACEO) to reflect on 2016 and talk about grief and loss.

Carers and people with palliative care needs are especially welcome, as are health professionals, researchers, policymakers and interested community members!

If you are new to twitter and tweet chats, see our “idiot’s guide” here: https://palliverse.com/2014/09/03/idiots-guide-to-twitter-for-health-professionals-twitter-101/

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“Failure to maintain”: do hospitals cause suffering in older people?

Today Palliverse talks to Assistant Professor Kasia Bail (@Kasia_Bail) from the University of Canberra. Kasia is a nurse, a researcher, a kung fu instructor and a drummer in a metal band. She came to our attention via social media when we noticed her crowdfunding campaign for the next stage of her research into nursing care of complex, hospitalised older people. Here at Palliverse we are fans of crowdfunding, although we’re yet to use it for research purposes!

Kasia’s research aims to improve sustainable acute care health delivery for an ageing population, while her clinical experience includes general medical and acute palliative care. In her PhD, Kasia developed an approach to measure nurse-sensitive outcomes, which is currently being used to evaluate a Government-funded implementation of a cognitive identifier. Kasia has a passion for identifying and researching the structures and processes which impede or enable quality patient care, and sharing her learning and inquiry with nursing students, industry and professional groups. Here, Palliverse asks her about her latest research project and dipping her toe into the world of social media.

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Dr Kasia Bail (image via Dr Bail)

Your research has led to a new concept in the care of older people with complex medical problems, “Failure to Maintain”. What does this mean? Continue reading

#ANZSPM16 tweet chat: Medicinal cannabis and palliative care

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In recent years scientific research into the effects of cannabinoids has been on the increase. Some would say that not-so-scientific research on the effects of cannabis has been underway for many hundreds of years, in many different countries and cultures.

Until recently I didn’t know that our own bodies produce endogenous cannabinoids, the various effects of which are still being studied. 

Two years ago, colleagues had informed me that at the Montreal Conference 2015 it was a ‘smokingly hot’ topic. The most widely studied cannabis-derived cannabinoids are Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC.) You may have heard of some of the medications that have ‘come to market’ since then:  Continue reading

#ANZSPM16 Wrap up

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Days two and three of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) 2016 Conference: The Changing Landscape of Palliative Care was just as brilliant as the first. The plenary sessions featured:

  • Merryn Gott (@MerrynGott) spoke about the ‘last taboo’ in our community: the invisible and sometimes unexpected costs of providing care at the end of life, which are often not explored in clinical and almost never measured in policymaking and research. She also discussed  the impact of culture, ethnicity and gender on who is bearing these financial and non-financial costs. To find our more, read her open access @PalliativeMedJ article here.
  • Meera Agar (@meera_agar) discussed the growing evidence base around delirium care in the palliative care setting. Management of this complex, distressing, life-threatening, but often reversible syndrome is challenging. Non-pharmacological strategies and a system-wide approach to organizing and delivering care are crucial, as research into various drug treatments continue to demonstrate a lack of clear benefit and the potential for harm. Meera recommends iDelirium for more information about this important area of palliative care.
  • Pippa Hawley reflected on the lack of evidence around the use of medicinal cannabis – despite the immense interest from (and considerable experience of) our communities. How should clinicians respond while the scientific and legal issues are sorted out? Ask questions, keep an open mind & work with our patients!
  • Douglas McGregor explored the interface between heart failure and palliative care. He referenced Sarah Goodlin’s open access article, Merryn Gott’s study while discussing prognostic uncertainty and clinician paralysis; and observed that most guidelines still see palliative care as relevant only at the very end of life, rather than a key component of chronic disease management. Amy Gadaud’s (@agadoudreview was flagged as a good place to start when considering issues around early integration.
  • Sam Bloore stimulated and inspired delegates with his fascinating talk about dying well in a culture of bitcoin and botox. How can palliative care adapt, survive and thrive in this changing cultural landscape characterized by information overload, mindless distraction and incoherence? We must remain a “subversive” counterculture and continue to strive towards caring deeply and meaningfully!

In addition to these amazing plenaries, fully (and at times even over-)subscribed workshops on the overlap between palliative care and addiction medicine / chronic pain, aged care, literature and the arts were held, alongside numerous excellent oral and poster presentations from specialists and trainees. The enthusiastic and well-informed audience present during all of the sessions was another highlight for me (and I’m sure all of the other speakers and delegates)!

It’s been a wonderful few days in Perth. A big thank you to the Conference organizing committee, chaired by Derek Eng (@dr_engd), for inviting team @Palliverse to be part of this great event. Thanks also to all of you for engaging with #ANZSPM16 on social media. Keep an eye out for our upcoming tweet chats, during which we will continue the conversation about the changing landscape of palliative care!

 

Highlights from day 1 #ANZSPM16

We had a terrific day one at the #ANZSPM16 conference in Perth. The conference, mainly catering to palliative doctors in Australia and New Zealand, takes place in the luxurious Duxton hotel close to the Swan River in Perth.

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Highlights from #ANZSPM16 pre-conference workshops

The Australian and New Zealand Society of Palliative Medicine (ANZSPM) 2016 Conference opens today. A number of excellent pre-conference workshops were held yesterday, including:

  • A comprehensive trainee day, including a great workshop from Katrina Anderson on self-care and reflection about love, strength, vulnerability and respect; the use of methadone (Pippa Hawley); the challenges of providing palliative care in residential aged care facilities (Douglas McGregor), patients and families with vulnerable personalities (David Kissane), and the neuroanatomy of distress (Lisa Miller)
  • A great presentation on the role of media in palliative care, followed by a hands-on workshop in the afternoon, under the encouraging guidance of Marie Mills; and
  • Supervisor workshop, lead by Michelle Gold and Brian Le

Team Palliverse will be broadcasting from the #ANZSPM16 Conference for the next three days. If you are at the conference, please come and say g’day – and recharge your devices – at the social media hub!

From Foundation to Future: Palliative Care Nurses Australia (PCNA) 6th Biennial Conference, 11-12 September 2016: Hotel Realm, Canberra.

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Calling all nurses… Next month PCNA will celebrate more than a decade of progress towards its vision of excellence in palliative care nursing.

DID YOU play a part in establishing the foundation for this progress?

DO YOU want to contribute to future progress towards this vision?

ARE YOU just curious to check out the latest advances in palliative care nursing?

Whether you’re in Canberra, Cooma, Clayfield, Carlton, or Christchurch—this conference is your opportunity to meet and mingle with experts in your field, as well as catch up with old colleagues or make new friends and professional connections.

In this post we give an overview of the conference program and keynote speakers presenting at what promises to be an outstanding conference, not to be missed!

#PCNAust16 by @PCNAust

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