Impact of Interdisciplinary Outpatient Specialty Palliative Care on Survival and Quality of Life in Adults With Advanced Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials

Ann Behav Med. 2019 Jun 4;53(7):674-685. doi: 10.1093/abm/kay077.


Background: In advanced cancer, patients want to know how their care options may affect survival and quality of life, but the impact of outpatient specialty palliative care on these outcomes in cancer is uncertain.

Purpose: To estimate the impact of outpatient specialty palliative care programs on survival and quality of life in adults with advanced cancer.

Methods: Following PRISMA guidelines, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials comparing outpatient specialty palliative care with usual care in adults with advanced cancer. Primary outcomes were 1 year survival and quality of life. Analyses were stratified to compare preliminary studies against higher-quality studies. Secondary outcomes were survival at other endpoints and physical and psychological quality-of-life measures.

Results: From 2,307 records, we identified nine studies for review, including five high-quality studies. In the three high-quality studies with long-term survival data (n = 646), patients randomized to outpatient specialty palliative care had a 14% absolute increase in 1 year survival relative to controls (56% vs. 42%, p < .001). The survival advantage was also observed at 6, 9, 15, and 18 months, and median survival was 4.56 months longer (14.55 vs. 9.99 months). In the five high-quality studies with quality-of-life data (n = 1,398), outpatient specialty palliative care improved quality-of-life relative to controls (g = .18, p < .001), including for physical and psychological measures.

Conclusions: Patients with advanced cancer randomized to receive outpatient specialty palliative care lived longer and had better quality of life. Findings have implications for improving care in advanced cancer.

Keywords: Behavioral medicine; Meta-analysis; Mortality; Palliative care; Quality of life.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulatory Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Palliative Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Quality of Life* / psychology
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic* / statistics & numerical data