Background: 68% of Australians diagnosed with cancer are alive 5 years after their initial diagnosis. This is an impressive statistic and is among one of the best in the world. However some groups of patients, such as those diagnosed with pancreatic or ovarian cancers, still experience very poor outcomes. But increasingly there are subgroups of patients, who traditionally would have fallen into the poor cancer outcomes groups, now living longer as a consequence of the emergence of remarkable immunotherapy agents.
For nurses who care for patients with advanced disease where immunotherapy agents have dramatically changed outcomes, there is little evidence to inform optimal models of care; information provision strategies to help patients understand and participate in treatment decision-making; side-effect recognition and management and, enablement of safe patient self-management. Clinical expertise in responding to fears of cancer recurrence; supporting end of life decision-making; responding to concerns about financial considerations, and clinical trial participation have all taken on added complexity. The responsibility to share information, educate and respond to the needs of nurses who care for people receiving immunotherapy agents in non-specialised settings is a new and critically important feature of specialist cancer nurses’ roles. Furthermore, the advent of the immunotherapy revolution requires cancer nurses to partner with patients and their families, to draw on metro, regional, acute and primary care colleagues to work together as a safety net around the patient more effectively than they have done before.
This paper will offer perspectives on the impact of immunotherapy on cancer nursing and will discuss examples of how nurses are already rising to the immunotherapy challenge to support and benefit patients.