Exploring the Changing Landscape of Cancer Care

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death across the globe and affects the lives of millions every year in the United States. As advances have been made in screening, diagnosing and therapeutics, providers have been able to utilize new technologies and precision medicine to achieve improved outcomes. The Healthcare Leadership Council hosted a webinar to highlight the commitment to medical research and discovery and the most recent accomplishments of some of its member companies. The webinar, “What’s New in Cancer Innovation?”, included three panelists:

  • Dr. Qasim Ahmad, Head of US Oncology Medical Affairs, Novartis
  • Dr. Harlan Levine, President, Health Innovation and Policy, City of Hope
  • Victoria Raymond, Senior Director of Medical Affairs, Guardant Health

Ms. Raymond described Guardant’s focus on blood-based diagnostics as a less invasive way to screen for specific cancers. This method of screening can assist in early detection as well as ensuring appropriate therapy selection. Dr. Ahmad concurred that there has been a shift from making the patient fit the treatment, to making the treatment fit the patient. He presented Novartis’s strategy to harness the power of targeted therapy, immunotherapy, cell and gene therapy, and radioligand therapy to attack cancer using multiple approaches and provide the best outcomes for patients at every stage of the disease.

Dr. Levine noted that the rate of change in oncology exceeds the ability for most oncologists to keep up with the advances in each subtype of cancer or surgical technique. He stated that while with precision medicine and genomics we are able to identify tumor types and DNA signals, we still address value-based oncology with tools that were developed decades ago as though cancer is a single specialty with only a handful of chemotherapy agents. Reliance on these generic tools will limit the benefit of emerging technology and propagate disparities.

The discussion underscored the lack of diversity across clinical trial sites, doctors, study investigators and trial participants. A map was provided as a visual to portray how one’s survival is directly impacted by one’s zip code. The need to innovate the system so that it is accessible and equitable is vital to improving cancer care. The panelists acknowledged efforts to increase diversity in clinical trials and addressing barriers that hinder trial participation and access to treatment. Educating the public on opportunities is just one piece of the puzzle. Finding easier ways for people to follow through with what they know they need to do is the next challenge.

Finally, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) was raised as a hindrance to cancer research, which require long-term commitments and significant investments.  There is a need for broader understanding of the investment required to subsidize clinical trials for cell-based therapies and the potential impact of the IRA in discouraging that investment. Policy measures that result in reduced research and fewer trials, ultimately limiting access to new therapies, is harmful to patients and society as a whole.