Launceston doctor to study death following chemotherapy

27 Nov 2017

Originally from Normandy in France, Dr Axel Durieux has found a home for himself in Launceston.

The Holman Clinic physician arrived in Australia 18 months ago, after working in Paris and the UK.

He has received a 2018 grant of $11,642 from the Clifford Craig Foundation to study early death following chemotherapy.

Dr Durieux will use digital medical records for his research, looking at patients who have died less than one month after receiving chemotherapy. He will then compare that to patients who did not die within 30 days of treatment.

“So the idea is that it should not happen,” he said. “Chemotherapy is quite toxic. It can be useful, of course, but it can also be toxic and that shouldn’t be given to patients who are basically at the end of their life.

“So I’m doing research that will actually determine whether we treat patients with chemo near the end of their life and try to compare that with other studies, which have been published, knowing that, of course, we should keep that number to a minimum.”

Dr Durieux said indicators would be assessed as part of the study.

“Things like, were they fit enough to receive chemotherapy, what happened, why did they die so soon after receiving this treatment, was their death expected in a way or not? And then there will be another group of patients, which will also be extracted from the digital medical records, who received chemotherapy but who did not die within one month.

“So we will match these two groups in terms of demographic – their age, sex, type of cancer, stage of the cancer, and then see if there are some other differences we can elicit between these two groups.”

Dr Durieux’s inspiration for the study came from his work in the UK.

“In England, they are really interested in this indicator, which is considered as a quality of care, not to give chemotherapy at the end of life, and that used to be a part of audits, to see if patients who have died less than one month after receiving chemotherapy were not over treated.

“I’ve noticed that it’s not something that is done in Australia and I think it would be interesting to also benchmark our practice with the one they have in the UK.

“It might not sound like something very uplifting because it’s not like we’re going to cure more cancer patients, but I think that we need to realise that, yes, nowadays more than 50 per cent of patients who have cancer are going to be cured from their disease. That’s great, but we also need to still consider those who are not going to win this battle, and make sure that they have the best care they need, including near the end of their life.”


Carly Dolan – The Examiner, Launceston