Best practices to improve care for patients with stomach cancer

Sunnybrook researchers are leading the way to improve care and survival for stomach cancer patients, and have published the largest compilation of best care practices, in a special edition of Gastric Cancer.

“When you look at the survival outcomes in North America compared to the outcomes achieved in Europe and Asia, there is much room for improvement and little published evidence to help guide clinicians in the care of patients with stomach cancer, which is a very complex disease to successfully treat,” says Dr. Natalie Coburn, surgical oncologist, Gastrointestinal Cancer Care Team, Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre, who led this systematic literature review.

“We need to better understand what is different about our patients, and the biology behind their illness,” says Dr. Coburn, who is also the Head of the Division of General Surgery at Sunnybrook.

Stomach cancer affects close to 3,000 Canadians a year, and is often unfortunately diagnosed at very advanced stages.  Early vague symptoms include heartburn and gastric reflux, with bleeding or blood in the stool at advanced stages.  Diagnosis and treatment usually occurs after detection of a large tumour in the stomach or metastases (cancer spread) to areas such as the liver and lung.

The select compilation features 16 peer-review published studies of best practices in procedures and approaches including:

  • sentinel lymph node biopsy
  • endoscopic ultrasound and pre-operative staging of stomach cancer
  • genetic testing and prophylactic (preventive) gastrectomy procedures for individuals with familial risk
  • surgical considerations, and palliative treatments for patients with advanced disease.

Dr. Coburn also led the Gastric Cancer Processes of Care Expert Panel, comprised of Canadian and international stomach cancer experts who are committed to developing better care guidelines for this patient population.

The study was generously funded by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.