Asia-Pacific Journal of Oncology Nursing

: 2017  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 273--274

Oral agents in cancer treatment: Meeting the patients' needs to ensure medication adherence

Sultan Kav 
 Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Baskent University, Ankara, Turkey

Correspondence Address:
Sultan Kav
Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, Baskent University, Ankara

How to cite this article:
Kav S. Oral agents in cancer treatment: Meeting the patients' needs to ensure medication adherence.Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2017;4:273-274

How to cite this URL:
Kav S. Oral agents in cancer treatment: Meeting the patients' needs to ensure medication adherence. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs [serial online] 2017 [cited 2022 Jan 17 ];4:273-274
Available from:

Full Text

Over the years, there has been an explosion in the number of available oral agents for cancer treatment. Today, one in four drugs used in cancer treatment can be administered orally. Adherence with oral agents for cancer treatment is essential for optimal outcomes; however, studies focused on oral chemotherapy showed adherence rates were ranging from 14% to 100%.[1] Adherence remains a major concern in the use of oral agents in order to maximize the benefit of the treatment.

Development of oral cancer agents has changed paradigms of both treatment and patient education. With the increasing use of oral agents, patients and families now are more responsibility for monitoring and reporting side effects to their health-care providers. As a result, health-care professionals need to develop services to meet this growing needs of patients to receive adequate, quality-assured, multiprofessional care. The aim of this special issue is to provide a forum for health professionals, researchers, educators, and clinicians to share their knowledge and to exchange expertise on issues related oral agents in cancer treatment.

In this issue, we are pleased to share two studies from the USA, and one each from Singapore and Turkey.

Factors influencing adherence are numerous, as medication adherence is complex and involves patient, physician, and process components. Complexity of the issues on medication adherence as illustrated in an article by Given et al.[2] reported that patients had 1–4 pills/day for oral cancer medications, besides taking 10–11 medications for their comorbid conditions (>3). In addition, patients had 3.7–5.9 symptoms and side effects. This study points out that patients taking oral agents have multiple medications for cancer and other comorbid conditions. The number of pills, times per day, and interruptions add to the medication burden that patients' experience.[2]

The second article by Ali et al.[3] reported the prevalence and determinants of adherence to oral adjuvant endocrine therapy among breast cancer patients in Singapore. Their study showed a low level of adherence; forgetfulness was cited as the main reason for nonadherence. The presence of one or more comorbidities was identified as the only independent predictor of high adherence in a multivariate logistic regression analysis.

Success with oral agents for cancer treatment requires a high level of self-management competence by the patient. A standardized patient education program provided by oncology nurses positively influences the management of the oral agents. A study from Turkey conducted by Tokdemir and Kav [4] showed that individual education using the MASCC Oral Agents Teaching Tool (MOATT) with follow-up increased patient oral medication adherence self-efficacy.

As new oral agents in cancer treatment are developed, physicians, nurses, policy makers, and health-care managers are focusing on strategies to optimize adherence for the best possible outcomes. May et al.[5] described a model to establishment of the Oral Chemotherapy Management Clinic; they write how it is run and give examples of interventions.

Despite growing interest in issues related to oral agents for cancer treatment, little evidence exists for interventions to ensure safe administration and patient adherence.[6],[7] A recent systematic review [7] on interventions to improve oral chemotherapy safety and quality revealed variation in measurement and definition of adherence and paucity of data evaluating the prescribing and storage/disposal steps of oral chemotherapy management. Several studies in the review showed that telephone-based monitoring following initiation of therapy reduced toxic effects and suggests that a program should include initial education and monitoring with telephone contact to patients within the 1st week of treatment. It was concluded that a framework for the oral chemotherapy management process with standardized outcome definitions is needed to ensure constructive research. A monitoring program should include nurse or pharmacist contact with patients, possibly enhanced with technology, soon after treatment start.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


1Barillet M, Prevost V, Joly F, Clarisse B. Oral antineoplastic agents: How do we care about adherence? Br J Clin Pharmacol 2015;80:1289-302.
2Given BA, Given CW, Sikorskii A, Vachon E, Banik A. Medication burden of treatment using oral cancer medications. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2017;4:275-82.
3Ali EE, Cheung KL, Lee CP, Leow JL, Yap KY, Chew L. Prevalence and determinants of adherence to oral adjuvant endocrine therapy among breast cancer patients in Singapore. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2017;4:283-9.
4Tokdemir G, Kav S. The effect of structured education to patients receiving oral agents for cancer treatment on medication adherence and self-efficacy. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2017;4:290-8.
5May P, La Plant K, McGee A. Practice model: Establishing and running an oral chemotherapy management clinic. Asia Pac J Oncol Nurs 2017;4:299-303.
6Arthurs G, Simpson J, Brown A, Kyaw O, Shyrier S, Concert CM, et al. The effectiveness of therapeutic patient education on adherence to oral anti-cancer medicines in adult cancer patients in ambulatory care settings: A systematic review. JBI Database System Rev Implement Rep 2015;13:244-92.
7Zerillo JA, Goldenberg BA, Kotecha RR, Tewari AK, Jacobson JO, Krzyzanowska MK, et al. Interventions to improve oral chemotherapy safety and quality: A systematic review. 2017 Jun 1. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol. 2017.0625. [Epub ahead of print].