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.