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Research group/lab  |  Principal investigator: Prof C. (Carin) van der Rijt, PhD

Palliative and Supportive Care

The research program on palliative and supportive care aims to generate scientific evidence to improve symptom control and quality of life in cancer patients.

About our research group/lab

Our research

Research line palliative and supportive care

Research focuses on the care for the dying and the management of symptoms, in particular pain and fatigue. The research on palliative care is embedded in the Center of Expertise in Palliative Care of the Erasmus MC. Several departments, Medical Oncology, Public Health, Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy, Pediatric Oncology and the Pain Treatment and Expertise Centers collaborate in the Center of Expertise in Palliative Care, thereby stimulating partnerships in several research projects.

Research topics:

1. Care for the dying

How we live and die has changed dramatically in the past century. Hundred years ago, illness was common at every age. Nowadays, most people live in good health into old age; the average life expectancy has increased to about 80 years. Many of the formerly acute causes of death can be prevented or treated and death is now for most of us the result of chronic disease at a high age. The last phase of life often involves a period of deterioration with comorbidities and functional decline. 

Adequate end-of-life care can have a major impact on the quality of the last phase of life. Our aging population as well as the increasing prevalence of chronic disease at the end of life, advances in medicine, costs of end-of-life care, and empowerment of patients, all make sensitive, patient-centered management of death and dying one of the main challenges of modern health care

Most health professionals believe that patients with advanced disease and their families should be told the truth about prognosis, but many avoid discussing the topic. This is due to uncertainty and a lack of tools, skills and time to adequately discuss sensitive issues around death and dying. Our research program is aimed at developing knowledge about death and dying in the 21st century and at finding clues for high quality end-of-life care.

2. Symptom management

Palliative and supportive care aims to improve the quality of life of patients and their relatives. Palliative care is understood to include the prevention and alleviation of symptoms and suffering of patients with life-threatening diseases and their relatives. It addresses physical, functional, psychosocial, as well as existential problems. When the underlying disease is still responsive to specific therapy, supportive care will be given to enhance the patient’s quality of life by (symptomatic) treatment of concurrent disease- or therapy-induced complications.

Palliative and supportive care is complex, because, in general, patients experience several physical and psychosocial problems simultaneously, pain and fatigue occurring most frequently. Available treatment strategies often have disappointing clinical effects or scientific evaluations of the effects are lacking. Research to develop evidence-based strategies in palliative care therefore is rather needed.

Our projects

Key Publications

de Raaf PJ, de Klerk C, Timman R, Busschbach JJ, Oldenmenger WH, van der Rijt CC. Systematic monitoring and treatment of physical symptoms to alleviate fatigue in patients with advanced cancer: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2013 Feb 20;31(6):716-23. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2012.44.4216. PubMed

Oldenmenger WH, de Raaf PJ, de Klerk C, van der Rijt CC. Cut points on 0-10 numeric rating scales for symptoms included in the Edmonton Symptom Assessment Scale in cancer patients: a systematic review. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2013 Jun;45(6):1083-93. doi: 10.1016/j.jpainsymman.2012.06.007. PubMed

Oosten AW, Oldenmenger WH, Mathijssen RH, van der Rijt CC. A Systematic Review of Prospective Studies Reporting Adverse Events of Commonly Used Opioids for Cancer-Related Pain: A Call for the Use of Standardized Outcome Measures. J Pain. 2015 Oct;16(10):935-46. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2015.05.006. PubMed

Recent publications

Kuip EJM, Oldenmenger WH, Oomen-de Hoop E, Verduijn GM, Thijs-Visser MF, de Bruijn P, van Meerten E, Koolen SLW, Mathijssen RHJ, van der Rijt CCD. Pharmacokinetics of Sublingually Delivered Fentanyl in Head and Neck Cancer Patients Treated with Curatively Aimed Chemo or Bioradiotherapy. Cancers (Basel). 2018 Nov 15;10(11). pii: E445. doi: 10.3390/cancers10110445. PubMed

Rietjens JA, Bramer WM, Geijteman EC, van der Heide A, Oldenmenger WH. Development and validation of search filters to find articles on palliative care in bibliographic databases. Palliat Med. 2019 Apr;33(4):470-474. doi: 10.1177/0269216318824275. PubMed

Oldenmenger WH, Geerling JI, Mostovaya I, Vissers KCP, de Graeff A, Reyners AKL, van der Linden YM. A systematic review of the effectiveness of patient-based educational interventions to improve cancer-related pain. Cancer Treat Rev. 2018 Feb;63:96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.ctrv.2017.12.005. PubMed


Center of Expertise in Palliative Care of the Erasmus MC:

- Public Health, Research group: Medical decisions in end-of-life care
- Medical Psychology and Psychotherapy
- Pediatric Oncology
- Center of Pain Medicine
- Neurology

Collaboration outside of Erasmus MC:

- Netherlands Comprehensive Cancer Organisation

Funding & Grants

Our research is partly funded by the following organizations:

• Erasmus MC MRACE
• Erasmus MC Health Care Research

Our team

  • Carin van der Rijt, Professor - Principal investigator
  • Wendy Oldenmenger, RN PhD
  • Astrid Oosten, MD PhD
  • Eric Geijteman, MD PhD
  • Annemieke van der Padt, MD PhD-student
  • Catherine Owusuaa, MD PhD-student
  • Liza van Lent, MSc PhD-studen
  • Jet van Esch, MD PhD-student
  • Diah Martina, MD PhD-student
  • Eline Elsten, MD PhD-student
  • Chantal Bakker, nurse specialist palliative care (in training)
  • Brenda Roggeveen, nurse consultant palliative care
  • Astrid de Melker, nurse consultant palliative care

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