Richard L. Schilsky, MD (left)
Don Dizon, MD
“[THE STREAM, Conquer Fear, and CALM] studies focus on the psychosocial aspects of coping with cancer. One theme that binds them is that oncologists take pride in the fact that we treat people with cancer [with the emphasis on people] and care for them, their caregivers, and their support systems. We focus not just on the disease, but on the impact and manifestations of the disease and its treatment on patients’ well-being,” stated ASCO Chief Medical Officer Richard L. Schilsky, MD, who moderated a press briefing where these three abstracts were discussed.
Commenting on the STREAM study, ASCO expert Don Dizon, MD, said, “This randomized trial looks at something oncologists recognize—distress. But we assume that the level of distress will fall naturally. Three out of four patients have significant distress on being diagnosed with cancer, and trying to get support to these patients can be challenging in terms of time and available resources. Utilizing an online system is feasible and holds promise of effectiveness in a randomized trial. This fills an unmet need.”
Dr. Schilsky added, “Sometimes less really is more.”
Fear of Recurrence and Depression
Dr. Dizon commented on the Conquer Fear study, noting that oncologists have a limited amount of contact time with patients, and visits focus on cancer-related outcomes. “When patients leave the room, we assume that they have fear of recurrence and accept this as normal. Fear of recurrence is a real phenomenon that can last for up to 6 years or longer. It is important to recognize and validate patients’ feelings, and this study shows we can do something about that. If we can’t offer Conquer Fear, we can tell our patients that something as simple as relaxation techniques can improve their lives now,” Dr. Dizon said.
Commenting on the CALM intervention, Dr. Dizon said: “Congratulations! Just as we have embraced the concept of palliative care and its importance for patients living with disease that is not curable, this study adds to the concept that we can help patients with their quality of life. Patients with advanced cancer still need our help.” ■
DISCLOSURE: Drs. Schilsky and Dizon reported no conflicts of interest.
Three separate brief psychological interventions aimed at helping cancer patients cope with distress have shown improvements in quality of life and well-being across the continuum of cancer care. The interventions were studied—respectively—in newly diagnosed cancer patients, survivors after cancer...