Osler’s Oncology and Palliative care teams pushed the boundaries of excellence to provide seamless patient-inspired care for those with cancer.

Osler receives prestigious designation for collaboration in oncology and palliative care

In 2019-20, Osler became the first Canadian community hospital to be designated as a Centre of Integrated Oncology and Palliative Care from the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO), a leading international non-profit organization for medical oncology. Only four Canadian cancer centres have ever received this designation and just 21 from across the globe received it last year.

This rare designation recognizes top cancer centres that provide high-standard, integrated oncology and palliative care. The Oncology and Palliative Care teams work in alignment, with the Oncology team treating the cancer and the Palliative Care team working to relieve the physical and emotional distress patients with cancer may experience. The Palliative Care team also helps to improve patient-physician communication and decision-making by taking a holistic approach to treating and managing symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, anxiety, depression and more.

Sunita Nirula is one many Osler patients who has benefitted from this collaboration. Four years ago, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. After undergoing treatment and becoming cancer-free, she transitioned to Osler’s Cancer Survivorship Program for further care. A year later, the cancer returned. This time in her lungs and bones and she was transitioned to Palliative Care for further management.

"I was worried, depressed, and crying when I found out. I thought, this is supposed to be the time when I can finally enjoy my life," said Sunita, 65. Today, Sunita is noticeably positive in spirit. She credits Osler’s integrated oncology and palliative care approach for helping her take charge of her symptoms and feel empowered.

"We are proud to deliver this international standard of care to our patients close to home and through our holistic approach, we are not only treating the disease but also caring for the entire person" said Dr. Martin Chasen, Medical Director, Supportive and Palliative Care at Osler.


Unique program empowers patients fighting cancer

Manuel Paul is an avid golfer. So when he started experiencing pain in his low back he attributed it to the sport he loved. It wasn’t until months later, when the pain became debilitating and he was hospitalized, that he learned he had developed Multiple Myeloma - a type of blood cancer. The severe pain Manuel was experiencing in his back was caused by a hip bone that cracked as the disease progressed.

After undergoing treatment, Manuel became one of the first patients to participate in Osler’s Oral Anticancer Therapy (OAT) Program. Unlike infusion cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, patients undergoing oral therapy can take their medication orally in the comfort of their own home and as a result, are required to visit the Oncology Clinic less frequently.

"A growing number of patients are using oral anticancer medication and with this shift in treatment, more and more of them are responsible for taking their own medication outside of the hospital," said Alina Rashid, Oncology Clinic Pharmacist and OAT Program Lead. "With this comes an increased need to educate patients so they can effectively manage their medication regimen."

Through the OAT Program, unique among community hospitals, patients like Manuel receive comprehensive education about their medication and its side effects, and regularly scheduled follow-up phone calls with a pharmacist.

Manuel is happy about the progress he has made. His hair is beginning to grow again and he has regained some of the weight he lost while under chemotherapy. With a healthy dose of optimism, Manuel is also looking forward to golf season once again.