BACKGROUND: A significant proportion of advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients receive supportive treatments to manage disease-related symptoms either separately or combined with systemic anti-cancer therapy (SACT). This supportive treatment is commonly referred to as best supportive care (BSC). Definition of BSC in clinical trials and its description in published comparative and real-life NSCLC studies is limited. The lack of a consensus BSC definition makes detailed evaluations of clinical trials and comparisons between clinical trials problematic.
METHODS: Data were collected as part of the lung cancer economics and outcomes research (LUCEOR) study. Information on treatment and treatment outcomes from deceased stage IIIb/IV NSCLC patients across ten countries was retrospectively collected from medical records. BSC was defined as the best care available as judged by the attending physicians.
RESULTS: A total of 1327 patients' data were analyzed. Of those, 774/1327 (58%), 316/631 (50%), 123/259 (47%), 25/56 (45%) and 15/26 (58%) were administered treatment defined as BSC with first, second, third, fourth and fifth-line SACT respectively. In total, 346/678 (51%), 149/335 (45%), 86/176 (49%), 11/28 (39%) and 13/25 (52%) of patients were administered treatment defined as BSC in the end-of-life setting after finishing first, second, third, fourth and fifth-line SACT respectively. BSC therapies could be grouped into 24 different categories. The most common elements did not vary substantially whether given with SACT (irrespective of treatment line), in the end-of-life setting, or between countries. The commonest categories of BSC were narcotic and non-narcotic analgesics, corticosteroids and gastrointestinal medication.
CONCLUSION: There were no major differences in what constituted BSC. BSC included in all instances narcotic and non-narcotic analgesics, corticosteroids and gastrointestinal medication. To our knowledge this is the first study attempting to describe BSC in routine clinical practice. This study's results could help define a practical, up to date, evidence-based definition of BSC.