Results Summary

What was the research about?

Many patients with cancer feel pain and distress as they plan for, undergo, and recover from cancer surgery. Palliative care focuses on easing pain and improving quality of life for people with a serious illness and their families.

In this study, the research team compared two ways a palliative care team could help provide care for patients having upper gastrointestinal, or GI, cancer surgery:

  • Surgical team management with palliative care if needed. Patients and their caregivers received care from a surgical team before and after surgery. This care included supporting patients with their mental health and social needs, providing education about cancer, and helping them manage symptoms. Surgeons could ask for help from a palliative care team if needed.
  • Surgical and palliative care team treatment. Patients and their caregivers received care from both a surgical team and a palliative care team before and after surgery. The palliative care team included nurses, social workers, pharmacists, and chaplain staff. Palliative care was given in person or by phone or internet for at least one hour per month. The palliative care team assessed patients’ symptoms. They talked to patients and their caregivers about whether their cancer was likely to improve. They also taught them about cancer treatment and ways to manage symptoms.

The research team compared how the two ways affected patients’ quality of life and other health outcomes.

What were the results?

After three months, the two ways to provide care didn’t differ in:

  • Patient quality of life, how severe patients’ symptoms were after treatment, and deaths
  • Patient and caregiver spiritual distress and mood
  • Patient and caregiver views on the benefits of surgery
  • Caregiver burden

Who was in the study?

The study included 359 patients who had upper GI cancer and 86 caregivers. Upper GI cancer includes stomach, esophagus, and small intestine cancer. Among patients, 78 percent were White, 8 percent were Black, 4 percent were Asian, 2 percent were American Indian or Alaska Native, and 8 percent were more than one race or another race. The average age was 65, and 54 percent were men. Patients received care from one of five medical centers across the United States.

What did the research team do?

The research team assigned patients and their caregivers by chance to one of the two ways to provide care.

Patients and their caregivers completed surveys at the start of the study, five days after surgery, and one and three months later. The research team tracked deaths in each group.

Patients who have had cancer surgery, caregivers, clinicians, and members of advocacy and professional organizations helped design the study.

What were the limits of the study?

Most patients in the study were White and had a high level of education. Results may have differed if the study had included more patients from other backgrounds.

Future research could look at ways to provide surgical and palliative care for patients from other backgrounds.

How can people use the results?

Clinics can use the results when considering ways to provide palliative care to patients having cancer surgery.

Final Research Report

This project's final research report is expected to be available by August 2024.

Peer-Review Summary

The Peer-Review Summary for this project will be posted here soon.

Project Information

Karl Lorenz, MD, MSHS^
Stanford University^
A Multi-Center Randomized Controlled Trial of Perioperative Palliative Care Surrounding Cancer Surgery for Patients and their Family Members (the PERIOP-PC trial)

Key Dates

August 2017
February 2023

Study Registration Information

^This project was originally led by Rebecca A. Aslakson MD, PhD, at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland.


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Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: December 18, 2023