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Art of Oncology 10-Year Anniversary Review

May 17, 2010

May 2010: The Art of Oncology section of the Journal of Clinical Oncology was initially developed pursuant to the presidential theme of former ASCO President Robert Mayer, MD, which related to how oncologists deal with end-of-life issues in patients with cancer. Although this section still, in large part, deals with end-of-life issues, it has evolved to also include patient communication issues, ethical issues, patient survivorship issues, and the emotional toll of oncology practice on care providers.

Charles Loprinzi, MD
"The main theme of the series can be summed up in two words—‘compassionate honesty,’” said Art of Oncology Consultant Editor Charles Loprinzi, MD. “Providing the truth about many oncology issues may negatively impact hope. It can be stated that mixing hope and reality is akin to trying to mix oil and water. [However, with] the appropriate mixture of hope and reality, better clinical decisions are likely to be made for individual patients with cancer,” he added.

Many of the articles in this series deal with important clinical situations that require aspects of both art and science. As with art, the issues discussed in this series can have different interpretations, Dr. Loprinzi explained. Thus, many of the articles lend themselves to being good for discussion. Oftentimes, Art of Oncology articles can stimulate discussions and debate about real-life issues seen in oncology practice, as well as lend themselves to being utilized in conference settings.

“From the initiation of this series, a dream of mine has been to make the articles of this series available to the lay public, as I believe that the content of these articles is appropriate for patients and family members to understand,” said Dr. Loprinzi. Furthermore, a small clinical study substantiated that patients with advanced incurable cancers could derive benefit from reading articles in this series (J Clin Oncol.2005;4013-4020).

In light of these findings, 30 of the articles were released in May as a  Kindle e-Book through Amazon.com with new volumes expected to follow every six months.

Ethical issues addressed in the Art of Oncology series include:

  • How to address hydration in patients with advanced cancer
  • The provision of nutrition to patients with advanced cancer
  • How to submit to an individual patient’s desires when they may be at odds with what the physician thinks is best
  • What should be done if the physician knows that a patient has lied to family members regarding genetic information that might affect the therapy of such family members
  • The use of placebos in randomized clinical trials
  • Appropriate discussions with family members who do not wish for the patient to be told prognostic information
  • Dealing with potential health care provider financial conflicts of interests which might have an effect on patient care recommendations. 
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