What can we learn from controlled clinical trials in palliative care?

NEW SERIES: A SNEAK PEEK AHEAD OF THE 12TH WORLD RESEARCH CONGRESS ONLINE OF THE EUROPEAN ASSOCIATION FOR PALLIATIVE CARE (EAPC)

There are just 94 days to #EAPC2022! With live sessions on 18 to 20 May 2022, and lots of on-demand content before and after the congress, this is the place of meeting for all of us in palliative care research. Ahead of the congress, we’re delighted to give some highlights of what to expect at #EAPC2022. Today, we give a glimpse of the Professor Vittorio Ventafridda Memorial Lecture 2022 that will be given by Professor David Currow, Deputy vice-Chancellor (Health and Sustainable Futures), University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.  


Professor David Currow

The evidence base continues to grow for the interventions that we employ in palliative care. Being able to personalise the care that we offer is critical to the continued improvements in outcomes for people with life-limiting illnesses. As we think about controlled clinical trials, who benefits?

Patients benefit

Getting our interventions right the first time requires us to have a much more nuanced understanding of each person that we serve. Much of this can only be refined through controlled clinical trials where causality of benefits and harms can be attributed. At a personal level, people participating in clinical studies often have more contact with clinicians – something that patients and their families value. For patients subsequently, well designed, controlled clinical trials will help to refine care, whether studies are positive or negative.

Clinical teams benefit

 Measuring the outcomes of care provided can generate benefits for the quality of care (given evidence from other clinical disciplines). Participating in trial design and conduct allows a cross-fertilisation of ideas that is critical to the continued improvement in palliative care clinical outcomes.  

Clinicians who care for people who will never be referred to palliative care services benefit

These clinicians have greater confidence in the interventions that they discuss with patients and families. They can choose more accurately people who are likely to benefit, people who may have no response and the people more likely to experience harm.

At the same time, designing and conducting clinical trials in palliative care brings many things into sharp focus. Three notable issues that deserve discussion include:

  • How difficult it is to define ‘standard practice’ (especially when seeking evidence to support widely varying assertions);
  • The distress that can be generated when a placebo arm is mentioned as an ethical possibility in designing a clinical trial; and
  • Just how many harms continue to be attributed to disease progression when, in fact, they are caused by the interventions that you and I initiate.  

Honest appraisal of the latter, alone, would improve markedly the quality of the care that we provide.

Join Professor David Currow on 18th May 2022 when he gives the Professor Vittorio Ventafridda Memorial Lecture 2022: ‘What can we learn from controlled clinical trials in palliative care?’ at the EAPC 12TH World Research Congress Online.

Links and resources


WELCOME TO EAPC 12TH WORLD RESEARCH CONGRESS ONLINE – 18 – 20 MAY 2022. REGISTER NOW BEFORE EARLY BIRD CLOSES ON 28 FEBRUARY.

EAPC World Research Congress 2022 Online 18 - 20th May

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