The Veterans Healthcare Administration (VHA) National Palliative Radiotherapy Taskforce formed in 2012 with the aim of researching and advancing palliative care within the VHA. The taskforce has since expanded and made meaningful progress. Through a series of survey studies, the group has measured practice patterns across the 39 (soon to be 40) VHA facilities that provide radiation therapy to Veterans with cancer at the end of life. Efforts have focused on evaluating prescriptions that are preferred for the palliation of bone metastases, spinal cord compression, and brain metastases. Studies have also evaluated the availability of palliative care services and advanced radiation technologies within the VHA for management of both palliative and definitive cases. A number of abstracts and papers have resulted from this work:

  • Gutt et al. “Management of Metastatic Spinal Cord Compression among Veterans Health Administration Radiation Oncologists.” American Society for Therapeutic Radiation Oncology, San Antonio, TX, Oct 2015. Int J Rad Oncol Biol Phys, 2015 Nov; 93(3):E475-476.
  • Dawson et al. “A cross-sectional view of radiation fractionation schemes used in the treatment of painful bone metastases (PBM) cases within the Veterans Health Administration Radiation Oncology Centers.” Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, Boston, MA, Oct 2015. J Clin Oncol 33, 2015 (suppl 29S;abstr 177).
  • Dawson et al. “Radiotherapeutic Care within the Veterans Health Administration of US Veterans with Metastatic Cancer to the Brain: Supportive Measures (Part 1 of 2 reports).” American Radium Society, Kauai, HI, May 2015. Oncology. April 2015, Vol. 29; Supplement 1. Page 78 (Poster 118).
  • Cheuk et al. “Radiotherapeutic Care within the Veterans Health Administration of US Veterans with Metastatic Cancer to the Brain: Part 2 Clinical Treatment Patterns.” American Radium Society, Kauai, HI, May 2015. Oncology. April 2015, Vol. 29; Supplement 1. Page 76 (P114).
  • Gutt et al. “The role of Palliative Radiotherapy in the Management of Metastatic Cancer: Bone Metastases, Brain Metastases, and Spinal Cord Compression.” May 2015;32:5(suppl 4):12S-16S.
  • Moghanaki et al. “Availability of Single Fraction Palliative Radiotherapy for Cancer Patients Receiving End-of-Life Care within the Veterans Healthcare Administration.”   J Pall Med. Nov 2014;17(11):1221-5.
  • Dawson et al. “The Availability of and Satisfaction with Palliative Care Services among Veterans Health Administration (VHA)-Based Radiation Oncologists.” Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium, Boston, MA, Oct 2014. J Clin Oncol 32, 2014 (suppl 31;abstr 55).
  • Dawson et al. “Advanced Radiation Oncology Technology within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).” American Society of Clinical Oncology Quality Care Symposium, Boston, MA, Oct 2014. J Clin Oncol 32, 2014 (suppl 30;abstr 52).
  • Moghanaki et al. “Availability of Single Fraction Palliative Radiotherapy for Cancer Patients Receiving End-of-Life Care within the Veterans Healthcare Administration.” American Radium Society, St Thomas, USVI, April 2014.

Looking ahead, a particular interest of this group is to increase awareness of the availability and appropriateness of hypofractionated radiotherapy for palliation to optimize patient comfort and convenience. A hope is that the effort of this group can help improve quality of care for both patients treated within the VHA and for terminal cancer patients in general. We look forward to new efforts in 2016 and increased collaboration with SPRO members working towards similar goals.

Drew Moghanaki
Ruchika Gutt
George Dawson
Alice Cheuk