NCCN Summit Addresses Changing Policy, Technology in Cancer Care


The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Oncology Policy Program convened a summit on identifying strategies to ensure access to and affordability of novel cancer therapies.

Experts involved in the summit were tasked with reviewing current Food and Drug Administration policies designed to make oversight more effective and efficient, as well as discussing recent health care regulations and legislation and the resulting real-world implications for oncology stakeholders.

The program, “Policy Strategies for the ‘New Normal’ in Health Care to Ensure Access to High-Quality Cancer Care,” was held at the National Press Club (June 25, 2018; Washington, DC) and included perspectives from clinicians, lawmakers, patient advocates, and other stakeholders.

“By including speakers with diverse perspectives, we can explore how policy and practice need to evolve in order to provide everyone with access to safe, effective cancer care,” said Robert W Carlson, MD, chief executive officer, NCCN.

A common topic of conversation throughout the summit was the shared role between patients and caregivers in determining their most “valuable path” and how best to be equipped for that “path.” Empowering patients and their families is essential in improving cancer care, argued one spokesman, asserting that caregivers have a responsibility to educate and inform patients and their families about what constitutes true quality in relation to their personal cancer journey.

Adding on to this argument, a cancer survivor and health advocate argued that cutting edge therapies require the consistent attention of continuing education for oncologists as well.

The summit also addressed a few of the lessons learned from a provider perspective after the launch of chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy as well as the emphasized importance and “de-stigmatizing” of clinical trial participation.


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Alyssa Schatz, MSW, director of policy, NCCN, explained that numerous changes to health care policy and payment models have occurred in the past decade, namely the shifting of power toward individual states and the transition to value-based care. She presented results of a survey of NCI-designated cancer centers regarding their experience with exchange marketplace coverage plans. The survey—conducted by Avalere Health—showed that among the 29 responding cancer centers, 25 were in network for some, but not all of the ACA exchange plans available in their respective state. The percentage of centers that were excluded despite attempting to be in network increased slightly from 2017 to 2018.

“This tells us that we have to be concerned with consumer education efforts in order to make sure people who purchase plans on an exchange fully understand any limitations when they sign up,” said Dr Schatz in her presentation. “If people opt for lower premiums, they need to be made aware that could restrict where they are eligible to be treated, or lead to higher out-of-pocket costs in the future.”—Zachary Bessette