News in brief: Fear of recurrence is widespread among cancer survivors; Tislelizumab improves survival in nasopharyngeal cancer; Cancer procedures delayed due to lack of staff

Wednesday, 20 Apr 2022

Fear of recurrence is widespread among cancer survivors

More than half of cancer survivors have a significant fear of cancer recurrence, and for about one in five the anxiety is severe enough to warrant specialist intervention, a study has found.

A meta-analysis of individual participant data for more than 9300 cancer patients and survivors found that 59% report at least a moderate level of fear of cancer recurrence and 19% experience a high level. Fear of cancer recurrence was more prevalent among female and younger patients, and highest scores were reported for people with lung cancer and melanoma, whereas participants with prostate cancer reported the lowest scores;

“We recommend providing brief psycho‐education about fear of cancer recurrence to all cancer survivors and patients, to normalise fear of cancer recurrence and help individuals seek support when they need it, even if they are no longer undergoing hospital‐based treatment or surveillance,” said the study authors in Psycho-Oncology.

Tislelizumab improves survival in nasopharyngeal cancer

Adding the anti-PD-1a antibody tislelizumab to chemotherapy extended survival for patients with recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer, according to newly released phase 3 trial results.

Presented during the ASCO Plenary Series session, findings from the RATIONALE-309 study involving 263 patients showed that those assigned to receive tislelizumab in combination with standard chemotherapy had an observed improvement of median PFS in of 9.6 months compared to the placebo + chemotherapy arm 7.4 months, with a 50% lower risk of disease progression.

Median PFS after next line of treatment (PFS2) and overall survival (OS) were not yet reached for the tislelizumab + chemotherapy arm, they study investigators said.

In the placebo + chemotherapy arm, PFS2 was 13.9 months and OS was 23 months.

The study authors said the results supported the use of tislelizumab in addition to current standard treatment for recurrent or metastatic nasopharyngeal cancer of a combination of chemotherapies gemcitabine plus cisplatin.

Cancer procedures delayed due to lack of staff

Cancer procedures are being delayed at specialist centres in Victoria because of severe staffing shortages related to COVID-19, according to media reports.

Procedures including surgery for skin, bowel, head and neck cancer are being postponed and rescheduled at specialist hospitals such as the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, according to clinicians who cited shortages of nurses and theatre technicians.

The lack of staff would mean continued delays in elective surgery despite the lifting of pandemic restrictions and promises of $1.5 billion funding to clear waiting lists, they told The Age.

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