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January 2018

Interventions to Improve Oral Chemotherapy Safety and Quality: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 2Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
  • 3Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 4CancerCare Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
JAMA Oncol. 2018;4(1):105-117. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.0625
Key Points

Question  What oral chemotherapy management programs have been evaluated?

Findings  There was variation in measurement and definition of adherence and paucity of data evaluating the prescribing and storage/disposal steps of oral chemotherapy management. Telephone-based monitoring following initiation of therapy reduced toxic effects.

Meaning  A framework for the oral chemotherapy management process with standardized outcome definitions is needed to ensure constructive research into means to improve prescribing and storage/disposal. Data suggest that a monitoring program should include nurse or pharmacist contact with patients, possibly enhanced with technology, soon after treatment start.


Importance  With the growing use of oral chemotherapy, there is an urgent need to develop safe and effective systems to administer and manage these agents. A comprehensive synthesis of literature on oral chemotherapy care delivery programs to which clinicians can look for best practices is lacking.

Objective  To summarize the peer-reviewed and gray literature on interventions to improve oral chemotherapy care delivery toward describing best practices and identifying current gaps.

Evidence Review  Using search terms pertaining to the concepts of oral chemotherapy, cancer, and interventions and outcomes, we performed a systematic review of PubMed, EMBASE, and CINAHL from January 1995 to May 24, 2016, to identify oral chemotherapy intervention programs. We searched the gray literature from January 1995 through February 2016 and contacted gray literature authors for further information. Four physician abstractors reviewed the titles, abstracts, and articles. Quality of the articles was assessed using SQUIRE2 guidelines. Interventions were evaluated in the categories of prescribing, preparation/dispensing, education, administration, monitoring, and storage/disposal. The population of interest included all ages and was limited to traditional cytotoxic and targeted anticancer oral agents.

Findings  From 7984 abstracts identified in the peer-reviewed literature search, 16 full-text articles met inclusion criteria representing 3612 patients. Interventions focused on prescribing (n = 1), preparation/dispensing (n = 2), education (n = 11), administration (n = 5), monitoring (n = 14), and storage/disposal (n = 1). In the 10 articles with adherence as the primary outcome, 4 evaluation methods were used. Most improvements were seen in toxic effects/safety compared with adherence. Of the 7 interventions with statistically significant improvement in the primary outcome, 3 nursing phone calls to contact patients within the first few days after treatment initiation, 2 of them with standardized toxic effects management protocols. Interventions using technology to increase touch points between care teams and patients (including video directly observed therapy, automated voice response, and text messages) were not effective.

Conclusions and Relevance  A framework for the oral chemotherapy management process with standardized outcome definitions is needed to ensure constructive research. Existing data suggest that a monitoring program should include personal contact with patients within the first weeks of treatment. Whether such contact can be enhanced by technology is uncertain.

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