Early versus delayed initiation of concurrent palliative oncology care: Patient outcomes in the ENABLE III randomized controlled trial

Academic Article


  • Purpose: Randomized controlled trials have supported integrated oncology and palliative care (PC); however, optimal timing has not been evaluated. We investigated the effect of early versus delayed PC on quality of life (QOL), symptom impact, mood, 1-year survival, and resource use. Patients and Methods: Between October 2010 and March 2013, 207 patients with advanced cancer at a National Cancer Institute cancer center, a Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and community outreach clinics were randomly assigned to receive an in-person PC consultation, structured PC telehealth nurse coaching sessions (once per week for six sessions), and monthly follow-up either early after enrollment or 3 months later. Outcomes were QOL, symptom impact, mood, 1-year survival, and resource use (hospital/intensive care unit days, emergency room visits, chemotherapy in last 14 days, and death location). Results: Overall patient-reported outcomes were not statistically significant after enrollment (QOL, P = .34; symptom impact, P = .09; mood, P = .33) or before death (QOL, P = .73; symptom impact, P = .30; mood, P = .82). Kaplan-Meier 1-year survival rates were 63% in the early group and 48% in the delayed group (difference, 15%; P = .038). Relative rates of early to delayed decedents' resource use were similar for hospital days (0.73; 95% CI, 0.41 to 1.27; P = .26), intensive care unit days (0.68; 95% CI, 0.23 to 2.02; P = .49), emergency room visits (0.73; 95% CI, 0.45 to 1.19; P = .21), chemotherapy in last 14 days (1.57; 95% CI, 0.37 to 6.7; P = .27), and home death (27 [54%] v 28 [47%]; P = .60). Conclusion: Early-entry participants' patient-reported outcomes and resource use were not statistically different; however, their survival 1-year after enrollment was improved compared with those who began 3 months later. Understanding the complex mechanisms whereby PC may improve survival remains an important research priority.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Bakitas MA; Tosteson TD; Li Z; Lyons KD; Hull JG; Li Z; Dionne-Odom JN; Frost J; Dragnev KH; Hegel MT
  • Start Page

  • 1438
  • End Page

  • 1445
  • Volume

  • 33
  • Issue

  • 13