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Building on basics

Comfort Always

For decades, cancer patients approaching the end of life have faced a terrible choice: continue treatment or enter hospice. By medical custom and Medicare constraint, patients could do one or the other, not both.

At last, that’s changing.

Research at UC Davis Cancer Center is fueling the reform. Last year, UC Davis researchers completed one of the first studies to examine progressive palliative care in advanced illness. The study demonstrated that, contrary to common wisdom, this care — focused on comfort rather than cure — does not interfere with cancer treatment; instead, it enhances it.

Late last year, the researchers received a generous grant to expand their work. The National Cancer Institute awarded the investigators $2.5 million, among the largest grants the agency has ever given for palliative care research. Headed by Fred Meyers, professor and chair of internal medicine, the five-year study will examine the benefits of combining curative and palliative care in patients at three centers: UC Davis Cancer Center, the City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif., and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.

“We hope to change the practice of oncology in the United States,” Meyers says. “We hope to demonstrate that progressive palliative care should be the standard of care for all cancer patients. No one should have to choose between fighting their disease or getting palliative care. They can receive both at once.”

Meyers calls the approach simultaneous care.


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