In 1974, a small group of physicians seeking to dispel the myth that community physicians were uninterested in and incapable of participating in state-of-the-art cancer care came together to form the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC). ACCC would become the mechanism through which clinical protocols and other oncology standards of care were developed and disseminated to community cancer programs across the nation. Led by ACCC, the community oncology care provider would emerge as an equal partner in the war against cancer.
In the early 1970s, ACCC was steadfast in calling for increased government funding for the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) Cancer Centers Program to increase research opportunities for community cancer programs across the country. ACCC organized an effective network of community oncologists to educate their representatives in Congress about community cancer care issues. Led by ACCC, hospitals across the country began to apply for planning grants in their communities. ACCC leaders believed that further NCI funding for community clinical research would be limited without increased community participation within the ranks of NCI itself. In 1978, Congress renewed the National Cancer Act, which was amended to include, for the first time, an emphasis on community care. The Act also called for community representation on the National Cancer Advisory Board.
In 1981, ACCC’s Ad Hoc Clinical Research Committee helped facilitate clinical trials dialogue with NCI. The committee promoted a mechanism that would elevate community physicians as equal partners in clinical research with their university colleagues. In 1982, NCI responded with the Community Clinical Oncology Program.
By the 1980s the membership of ACCC, an organization founded by oncologists, began to reflect the multidisciplinary nature of oncology care. During this decade, ACCC's membership grew to include medical and radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, hospital and practice administrators, medical directors, radiation therapists, oncology pharmacists, social workers, and cancer registrars employed in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physician practices, hospice and home care, and freestanding cancer centers.
ACCC developed into the only national organization promoting the collective concerns of the multidisciplinary oncology team as a whole. Beginning with its first annual meeting in 1974, ACCC has facilitated multidisciplinary oncology collaboration in a variety of forums dedicated to diverse aspects of cancer program management.
In the 1980s, the economics of oncology began to change. With the advent of the DRG reimbursement system and the growth of managed care, site of care for most cancer diagnoses shifted to the more economical outpatient hospital setting and physician practices. Keeping the multidisciplinary aspect of oncology care intact in all treatment settings would become a major ACCC priority.
During this decade, community cancer programs were being developed across the country. ACCC recognized the need to establish a set of standards that would provide members with guidance on just how to go about setting up oncology programs. ACCC’s Standards for Cancer Programs (later re-named ACCC Cancer Program Guidelines) was published in 1988 and has been updated many times since.
Throughout the 1990s, ACCC worked tirelessly to overcome reimbursement difficulties related to off-label uses of FDA-approved drugs, and advocated for patients who were denied access to therapies. Concurrently, ACCC advocated for payer coverage of the patient care costs of clinical trials.
The first decade of the 21st Century saw tremendous opportunities in cancer biology and genetics, offering potential for significant changes in what cancer providers could do for their patients. Yet these advances occurred against a backdrop of payer restrictions that could seriously hinder the ability to deliver quality cancer care. ACCC worked to ensure that cancer patients received the care they needed in their communities, and expanded its reach through educational programs, publications, and advocacy efforts, to help the multidisciplinary team of oncology professionals.
ACCC celebrated 40 years of service in 2014, and today continues its ongoing commitment to advancing access to quality comprehensive cancer care for all. ACCC steadfastly builds on its efforts as the leading education and advocacy organization for the multidisciplinary cancer care team.