It is often stated that timely palliative care improves quality of life for patients with advanced cancer. However, studies in this area are difficult to carry out, and there is scant evidence for this assertion. As well, there is a misconception among patients – also some oncology clinicians – that palliative care is relevant only after all other cancer treatment has been exhausted. Referrals to palliative care are therefore often deferred, and may not occur at all. We conducted a randomized controlled trial to determine whether routine early involvement of specialized palliative care in the outpatient setting would improve quality of life for patients with advanced cancer. The study took place at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and was funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.