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#AMCCBS: Clinical & Operational Updates in Oncology

March 9, 2023
Day 1-Final

The Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) is in D.C. for the ACCC 49th Annual Meeting & Cancer Center Business Summit (#AMCCBS). Before opening the larger #AMCCBS conference to its membership, ACCC held two events—the Best of Community Cancer Care Workshop and the Delivery of Psychosocial Care in Oncology Summit—on Wednesday, March 8. Thirty-three attendees joined ACCC staff in its invite-only summit dedicated to addressing mental health needs in oncology, while more than 100 attended the Best of Community Cancer Care Workshop in-person and online to learn from invited subject matter experts.

Featured Clinical Oncology/Hematology Updates

Natalie Rizk, MD, breast surgical oncology specialist at Ascension Michigan Van Elslander Cancer Center - Ascension St. John Providence and assistant professor at Wayne State University School of Medicine, opened the Best of Community Cancer Care Workshop pre-conference with detailed updates on the multidisciplinary management of breast cancer. In highlighting the evolution of breast cancer surgery from a radical mastectomy (whether halsted or modified) to breast conservation lumpectomy, the treatment of breast cancer has evolved to consider patients’ preferences and dedicated improvement to their quality of life. Yet further advancements must be made to address health disparities, use of locoregional management after neoadjuvant chemotherapy, and de-escalation of treatment across disciplines when treating patients with breast cancer. 

In quoting June Goodfield, Dr. Rizk closed her session by stating: “Cancer begins and ends with people…. It is sometimes possible to forget this one basic fact. Doctors treat disease, but they also treat people, and this precondition of their professional existence sometimes pulls them in two directions at once.”

Pedro Barata, MD, MS, director of the Genitourinary Medical Oncology Research Program at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and associate professor of medicine at Case Western Reserve University, then took the stage to discuss emerging targeted therapies for the treatment of prostate cancer. In doing so, Dr. Barata emphasized the need to understand patient’s cancer through genetics. “Germline information complements somatic information and vice versa,” he said. Further, Dr. Barata believes that genetic test results—whether somatic or germline—are expected to be increasingly used by providers to inform treatment decisions and that molecular profiling holds great potential as a biomarker for response assessment.

Lastly, Farrukh Awan, MD, professor of internal medicine and director of the Lymphoid Malignancies Program at UT Southwestern Medical Center, Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, spoke on the current landscape for treating patients with hematologic malignancies and patient selection for novel cellular therapies. From targeted therapies to immunotherapies, Dr. Awan shared how the evolution of anti-cancer treatments have positively impacted patient outcomes (survival vs. progression) and improved patients’ quality of life during and after treatment, with more advancements to come in this space.

Supporting Patients and Staff’s Well-Being

The Best of Community Cancer Care Workshop also featured two sessions dedicated to the operational side of oncology care. Much anticipated, the ACCC Financial Advocacy Network released its Financial Advocacy Services Guidelines. Speakers Lori Schneider, oncology operations manager at Green Bay Oncology, and Meredith Doherty, PhD, LCSW, assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania - School of Social Policy & Practice, discussed the current landscape of the field and shared strategies to best implement these guidelines in any cancer program or practice. Both speakers emphasized the importance of clinical and operational staff collaboration when building comprehensive financial advocacy programs and addressing financial hardship for patients with cancer. “Please don’t push yourselves on this. We know building programs takes time, and we want to help you build a good program,” Schneider said. Further, the network will be spending much of its 2023 agenda to identify and disseminate strategies to help cancer programs and practices—of any resource, size, or patient volume—put these guidelines into practice.

Kamakshi Rao, PharmD, BCOP, interim director of pharmacy, Clinical and Academic Enterprises at the University of North Carolina Hospital, then spoke on oncology pharmacy workforce issues that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. With a rapid increase in rate and prevalence of burnout among healthcare providers, including pharmacists, Dr. Rao suggested that cancer programs and practices provide support to their pharmacy staff in the form of professional development, additional training, and protected time to engage in activities outside core business. “We have work to do both from an institutional and organizational level to engage and retain the workforce,” Dr. Rao said. And by appropriately supporting, advocating, and recognizing their oncology pharmacy workforce, as Dr. Rao shared, cancer program and practice leaders will be one step closer to retaining a happier and more satisfied workforce.

Delivery of Psychosocial Care in Oncology Summit

Patients with cancer and their circles of support are not the only ones to benefit from psychosocial care. The burden of COVID-19—coupled with the emotional distress associated with caring for patients with cancer and helping patients and families make difficult treatment choices—has brought to light the urgent need to provide comprehensive psychosocial care to the healthcare workforce as well. 

Therefore, ACCC hosted its invite-only Delivery of Psychosocial Care in Oncology Summit to convene experts in the field to discuss the current state of mental health in oncology; build a collaborative dialogue among all interested stakeholders to identify action plans that address ongoing mental health issues for patients, caregivers, and the cancer care team; review and identify effective screening tools, training, resources, and policies to address psychological distress among individuals; and identify barriers to providing and accessing timely and appropriate care for patients and caregivers experiencing psychological distress. 

Next steps identified by the group in this space includes incorporating rural health systems into the process to better fill gaps and increase access, education on what collaborative care is, better support for those implementing collaborative care in practice, and identifying a group of early adopters—needed to convince others to develop collaborative care models with a focus on psychosocial care, too. Stay tuned for more information from ACCCBuzz, the CANCER BUZZ podcast, and the association’s official journal, Oncology Issues.

Read more about #AMCCBS with ACCCBuzz's coverage of Thursday and Friday's events.

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