The influence of the patient-oncologist alliance may go beyond the patient to positively affect the informal caregiver, and this benefit may extend into bereavement, a new study published online ahead of print in the journal Cancer has shown.

For the prospective, longitudinal, multicenter Coping with Cancer study, researchers enrolled 68 terminally ill cancer patients with a life expectancy of no more than 6 months and their informal caregivers.

Caregivers were followed into bereavement. Patients answered questions about how they perceived their relationship with their oncologist, caregivers completed a health-related quality of life (HRQoL) questionnaire, and interviewers rated the emotional well-being of caregivers.

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Results showed that a strong patient-oncologist alliance was associated with caregiver self-report of less role limitation due to emotional problems, better mental HRQoL, better general HRQoL, better social function, and better interviewer-rated emotional well-being after the patient’s death.

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Researchers found that the association between patient-perceived alliance and bereaved caregivers’ interviewer ratings of bereaved caregivers’ emotional status and mental health remained significant after adjusting for confounding factors.

The findings suggest that a strong relationship between an oncologist and patient can benefit the relationship between the caregiver and patient.


  1. Trevino KM, Maciejewski PK, Epstein AS, Prigerson HG. The lasting impact of the therapeutic alliance: Patient-oncologist alliance as a predictor of caregiver bereavement adjustment. Cancer. 2015. [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29505.