The National Palliative Care Research Center

Curing suffering through palliative care research.


Christopher Woodrell MD

Assistant Professor

Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai

Grant Year
Grant Term
2 years
Grant Type
Junior Faculty Career Development

Project Description
Palliative Care for Patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma

The purpose of this research is to improve healthcare received by people with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), the most common primary liver tumor, through the provision of palliative care. The benefits of palliative care for cancer patients and their families are well documented, and include improved quality of life and symptom control, reduced time spent in the hospital, and in multiple studies, longer survival. However, cancer represents a diverse group of illnesses and little is known about palliative care needs in the setting of HCC, which is different from other cancers because it usually arises in the setting of underlying liver disease. Rates of liver cancer in the United States are rising and people with liver cancer face untreated symptoms and uncertainty about their disease and prognosis. More information about how to best support them is desperately needed. This project will help to address this problem through (1) a secondary data analysis to describe patient characteristics associated with palliative care receipt, and its impact on how much time people with HCC are able to spend outside of the hospital; and (2) a qualitative study of physicians who treat HCC to understand physician-level factors that determine when palliative care referrals are made. This work will help provide the building blocks to create future interventions that aim to improve quality of life for people living with liver cancer and their families. 


Christopher Woodrell, MD is Assistant Professor in the Brookdale Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City; he is also Staff Physician in the Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx, NY. He is an early career health services investigator whose goal is to improve palliative care delivery to people facing primary liver cancer and end-stage liver disease. He received a Bachelor of Arts from Swarthmore College in Biochemistry and his M.D. from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. After his internal medicine training at The Mount Sinai Hospital, he completed both clinical and research fellowships in palliative care at Icahn School of Medicine. He is board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine and Internal Medicine. He was selected as a Butler-Williams Scholar by the National Institute on Aging in 2016. During this Career Development Award he will seek to understand the effect of palliative care on healthcare use by liver cancer patients at Mount Sinai. He will also undertake a qualitative study of knowledge and attitudes of specialist physicians who treat liver cancer, to determine physician-level factors that affect palliative care delivery to people with liver cancer. Dr. Woodrell hails from California, and prior to medical school had a career as a ballet and modern dancer.