Chemotherapy in the last 30 days of life of advanced cancer patients

Support Care Cancer. 2015 Nov;23(11):3277-80. doi: 10.1007/s00520-015-2733-6. Epub 2015 Apr 22.


Purpose: Chemotherapy near the end of life is an issue frequently discussed nowadays, but literature is generally poor. We analyzed patients with cancer who received chemotherapy in their last month of life.

Methods: The study involved all patients treated in our oncological department between 2010 and 2012; our attention focused on patients receiving chemotherapy in their last month of life. The hematologic malignancies are excluded.

Results: During the covered period, 2164 pts received chemotherapy, 162 received chemotherapy in their last month of life (24.3 %). The median age of this subgroup was 67.8 years, and median Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status was 2. One hundred and five patients (64.8 %) were males. All patients presented a metastatic disease. Causes of death are as follows: 64.8 % progressive disease, sudden death in 4.9 %, toxicity in 3.1 %, and not available in 27.2 %.

Conclusions: Twenty-four percent of patients treated with chemotherapy received their last regimen within 1 month of death. Percentage is in line with existing results. It is commonly acknowledged that age, performance status, tumor sensitivity, survival prognosis, and comorbidities should be considered in every chemotherapy decision-making; nevertheless, some studies show that age is not a crucial factor. At present, individual clinician is the only predictor for continuing chemotherapy in the last 4 weeks of life. Although appropriateness criteria were applied, patients were submitted to chemotherapy within 1 month of life; we hope that development of simultaneous care could help in end-life decision-making.

Keywords: Cancer patients; Chemotherapy; End of life.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Prognosis
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care / methods*