Advances in technology and drug therapy have resulted in cancer patients living longer with malignant disease. However, most of these patients will face the end of life much sooner than the general population. Adopting a "palliative approach" is one innovation that has the potential to promote anticipatory planning and promote enhanced end-of-life care. Yet, in much of the western world, this upstream orientation has rarely been achieved. An emphasis on providing palliative care late in the illness trajectory has resulted in many challenges for the care of people with advanced cancer. We highlight a nursing research initiative, The Initiative for a Palliative Approach in Nursing: Evidence and Leadership (iPANEL), that aims to develop evidence to inform the integration of a palliative approach into the care of people with advancing chronic life-limiting conditions. Oncology nurses have an important role to play in facilitating a palliative approach, transforming the ways in which cancer patients are cared for within our health care system.