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Current Opinion in Oncology:
doi: 10.1097/CCO.0000000000000099
SUPPORTIVE CARE: Edited by Jean A. Klastersky

‘Curative’ treatments and palliative care: the lack of consensus

Gaertner, Jana,b,c; Knies, A.d; Nauck, F.e; Voltz, R.d; Becker, G.a,b,c; Alt-Epping, B.e

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Purpose of review: A survey was performed to assess whether authors who report about palliative treatments or palliative care share a common understanding of ‘curative’ treatments.

Recent findings: Of 107 authors from publications about cancer who used both ‘palliative’ and ‘curative’ in the same abstract, 42 (39%) responded. The majority (n = 24; 57%) understood ‘curative’ treatments as ‘aimed at complete absence of disease for the rest of life’, but 43% (n = 18) did not share this view. For example, 19% (n = 7) stated that the term describes cancer-directed therapy for prolongation of life or even regardless of the aspired goal.

Summary: In the care for cancer patients, unambiguous terminology is essential for the participatory and interdisciplinary decision-making process. Clinicians, researchers and policy makers should be aware of the difference between curative and disease-modifying therapies. Otherwise, this may be a major source of misunderstandings as disease-modifying therapy may be indicated in the incurable stages of the disease as well. In these palliative situations, it is essential to identify the realistic aim(s) of the therapy: prolongation of life, alleviation of suffering or both.

© 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.


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