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MD Anderson Now an Oncology "Superhub" for Project ECHO

Surabhi Dangi-Garimella, PhD
MD Anderson Cancer Center, which first established its oncology-focused ECHO program in 2014 has now adopted a much bigger role, of a “superhub.”
MD Anderson Cancer Center, which first established its oncology-focused ECHO program in 2014 has now adopted a much bigger role, of a “superhub.” In this role, MD Anderson will collaborate with and train other academic cancer centers interested in adopting the ECHO model to improve access to high-quality care for patients in rural and underserved regions, not just in the United States but around the globe.

ECHO, which stands for Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes, was initiated in 2003 to improve access to specialty treatment for patients infected with the hepatitis C virus in rural New Mexico. The project removed the access barriers for primary care physicians in remote regions of the state and allowed them to connect with specialists at academic medical centers and implement their best-practice management using “telementoring.”

The project has now expanded to cover other disease states and specialties, to reach patients in rural as well as urban areas, across various delivery services. More importantly, ECHO has reached across the globe and operates over 110 hubs in 21 countries, for more than 55 diseases and conditions.

“We believe that the ECHO model has great potential to promote greater equity in care delivery across the entire cancer spectrum,” said Ernest Hawk, MD, vice president and head, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, MD Anderson Cancer Center. He will also serve as the co-director of the superhub. Hawk envisions that the network built via Project ECHO will allow local providers to provide high-quality cancer prevention, screening, and treatment options in their respective communities.

The original program at MD Anderson was focused on cervical cancer prevention, screening, and management along the Texas-Mexico border. The objective was to tackle the unusually high rates of cervical cancer in the region by mentoring local physicians to raise awareness among women on screening and vaccination against the human papillomavirus, and teach them best practices for screening, diagnostics, and early cancer management. 

The model additionally covers tobacco cessation, survivorship, and palliative care, with partnerships that extend across Texas, Latin America, and Africa.

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