Palliative care research: lessons learned by our team over the last 25 years

Palliat Med. 2013 Dec;27(10):939-51. doi: 10.1177/0269216313477177. Epub 2013 Feb 26.


Background: In the last 25 years, palliative care has made major progress as an interdisciplinary specialty that addresses quality-of-life issues for patients with life-limiting illnesses and their families. Research by numerous investigators has contributed to our increasing body of knowledge to support an evidence-based practice.

Aim: We highlight some lessons learned by our group in the process of conducting palliative care research, focusing in particular on symptom assessment; the management of pain, fatigue, cachexia, dyspnea, delirium, and opioid-induced neurotoxicity; and outcomes of our palliative care program.

Design: Narrative review of selected literature, focusing on studies conducted by our group.

Data sources: This article is based on the Second Vittorio Ventafridda Memorial Lecture by Dr Eduardo Bruera, delivered at the European Association for Palliative Care, Trondheim, Norway on 8 June 2012.

Results: For each topic, we review some of the pivotal studies in palliative care, discuss the challenges in research design, and outline possible directions for future research.

Conclusions: We conclude by sharing some of what we learned about the processes, pearls, and pitfalls of palliative care research.

Keywords: Cachexia; delirium; dyspnea; fatigue; health services; neoplasms; opioid analgesics; pain; palliative care; patient outcome assessment; research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Cachexia / therapy
  • Delirium / therapy
  • Dyspnea / therapy
  • Fatigue / therapy
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care / methods
  • Palliative Care / trends*
  • Quality of Life
  • Research / trends*
  • Research Design


  • Analgesics, Opioid