Treatment-Related Toxicity Management Identified as an Educational Need in Immunotherapy


A recent survey presented at the ASCO-SITC Clinical Immuno-Oncology Symposium (January 25-27, 2018; San Francisco, CA) highlighted the need for educational resources to go further in-depth into immunotherapy science and management strategies for treatment-related adverse events.

The use of cancer immunotherapy continues to increase in the United States. As a result, unique challenges for both patients undergoing immunotherapy and their providers have emerged.

The Cancer Support Community conducted surveys of patients, caregivers, and health care staff at nine oncology centers across the country to obtain a better understanding of these challenges. The survey focused on educational needs in immunotherapy administration and was conducted through paper and online from August to September 2017. A total of 93 health care providers (eg, oncologists, nurses, social workers), 65 patients, and 21 caregivers responded to the survey.

Researchers noted that descriptive statistics and statistical analyses were performed using SPSS Version 24, and analyses of association used a significance level of .05.

Survey results yielded significant provider perspectives and highlighted targeted areas of patient and caregiver concern. While approximately one-third of patients and caregivers (31% and 38%, respectively) responded that it was important to understand the science of immunotherapy, almost half of health care providers (46%) indicated that educational resources should go “in-depth” into immunotherapy science.


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Additionally, survey results indicated that while caregivers have great difficulty finding information about immunotherapy, the majority of both patients (55%) and caregivers (85%) identified managing treatment-related side effects as their foremost educational need.

Researchers concluded that the Cancer Support Community’s analysis shed light on valuable insights in both clinical care and patient education. Cancer Support Community is developing a pilot program—Immunotherapy & Me— to determine whether incorporating patient education and care management tools leads to improved patient and clinical outcomes. The program will also develop resources to help patients and health care providers manage immunotherapy-related side effects.—Zachary Bessette