Chemotherapy at the End of Life

J Palliat Care. 2021 Apr;36(2):73-77. doi: 10.1177/0825859720946505. Epub 2020 Aug 6.


Background and objectives: The use of chemotherapy at the end of life in advanced cancer patients has increased and end of life care has become increasingly aggressive. The aim of this study is to evaluate patients receiving chemotherapy in the last 3 months of life and the aggressiveness of end-of-life support of these patients.

Methods: All adult patients with solid tumors who received chemotherapy in their last 3 months of life and died in our hospital between January 2015 to June 2019 were included. Detailed information on chemotherapy and toxicity was collected in patient records.

Results: A total of 182 patients included. Median age was 58,9 years. The median survival from the docementation of metastatic disease was 9,98 months (0,95-64,3). Of these 182 patients, 95 (52%) were treated with chemotherapy in the last month of life and 52 (29%) in the last 2 weeks of life. The median number of days between the last administration of chemotherapy and patient death was 29 (0-90). A new chemotherapy regimen was started in the last 3 months of life in 102 patients (56%), in the last month of life in 43 patients (23,6%) and in the last 2 weeks in 23 patients (12.6%).

Discussion and implications: There are many patients who received chemotherapy in the last 3 months of their life and the rates of chemotherapy initiation during this period are well above ideal rates. Whether such care has positive effects on survival or quality of life is questionable and deserves additional investigation.

Keywords: cancer/oncology; chemotherapy; death and dying; palliative care.

MeSH terms

  • Death
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Palliative Care
  • Quality of Life
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Terminal Care*