Purpose of review: The aim of this systematic review is to scrutinize and summarize the design, conduct and reporting standards of articles recently published describing health-related quality of life (HRQL) outcomes of treatment of upper gastrointestinal cancer.
Recent findings: Some 2312 abstracts were published between January and July 2009 and initial elimination of papers reduced this number to 22 articles. Of these, 17 were judged to have robust HRQL methodology, but a further seven were excluded due to a high risk of bias in the study design. Ten articles (four randomized trials) were finally included in the review. Studies in curative treatments for oesophagogastric cancer show that surgery and chemoradiation therapy has a major short-term detrimental effect on HRQL, but recovery occurs within 6 months in long-term survivors but those not achieving a survival benefit report very poor HRQL. In advanced oesophageal cancer, 18 mm self-expandable metal stents and nonstent therapies lead to better short-term HRQL scores than nonexpandable stents and are the recommended standard of care. A small survival advantage and improved HRQL is conferred by adjuvant and palliative gemcitabine chemotherapy in patients with pancreatic cancer.
Summary: This review identified few well-designed studies that also included a robust assessment of HRQL. High-quality trials with reliable HRQL methods are required for outcomes to inform health policy and clinical decision-making.