The cancer care community descends on Chicago this weekend for the 2023 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). This year’s theme, “Partnering With Patients: The Cornerstone of Cancer Care and Research,” highlights how recent advances make interactions between clinicians and patients more important than ever, as shared decision-making must be the foundation of the care journey.
Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies. Antibody drug conjugates. Targeted therapies. And, more recently, personalized mRNA vaccines, used in combination with immunotherapy.
Each year, attendees at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) marvel at the ever-growing variety of cancer treatment options, and the 2023 meeting that runs June 2-6 promises to be no exception. This year’s meeting in Chicago promises headlines in breast, ovarian, and lung cancer, along with steps forward in classic Hodgkin lymphoma, to name a few.
But this year, those being treated get equal billing. The relationship between the clinician and patient—and specifically, the patient’s voice in guiding care—is reflected in the theme, “Partnering With Patients: The Cornerstone of Cancer Care and Research,” to be presented at Saturday’s opening session by ASCO President Eric P. Winer, MD, FASCO, who is director of the Yale Cancer Center and physician-in-chief of Smilow Cancer Hospital.
In a message in The ASCO Post, Winer wrote that the clinician-patient relationship has been affected both positively and negatively in recent years. Easy access to medical information can educate, but also create confusion or spread disinformation, he wrote.
“Despite many challenges, it is critical that we, as a community, work to build stronger partnerships between clinicians and patients,” Winer said, not only to boost satisfaction for both but also to achieve goals such as increased clinical trial enrollment.
Alongside this year’s clinical findings are multiple sessions that take on these questions as well as those of patient access and health equity, which has been a theme at ASCO in recent years. Ahead of this year’s meeting, ASCO highlighted research that shows states that expanded Medicaid saw reduced cancer mortality and racial disparities in gastrointestinal cancer compared with non-expansion states.
A highlight of the meeting will be a Monday session, “ASCO Patient Forum: Communicating the Needs of People With Cancer,” aimed specifically at patients with cancer and advocates to address unmet needs, including those of diverse populations. Winer will lead the session with ASCO Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer and Vice President Sybil R. Green, JD, RPh, MHA, and Fumiko Chino, MD, assistant attending radiation oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and an advocate on behalf of patients and family caregivers.
ASCO’s opening session will also feature remarks by the group’s former president, National Cancer Institute Director Monica M. Bertagnolli, MD, and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, who will address the need for well-being in the nation’s health care workforce.
Clinical trial results no longer focus solely on whether a therapy offers more months of progression-free survival, as questions today also involve quality of life, specifically adverse events (AEs) and increasingly, financial toxicity. Both Medicare and commercial insurers seek to collect patient data through the use of electronic patient-reported outcomes, or ePROs, which participants in Enhancing Oncology Model will be required to use.
Engaging in shared decision-making with one’s oncologist is something that patients with cancer have come to expect, said Lalan Wilfong, MD, vice president for payer relations and practice transformation at The US Oncology Network, who will be part of a Sunday morning panel discussion on lessons from Oncology Care Model (OCM). In an interview with The American Journal of Managed Care® to preview the ASCO meeting, Wilfong said patient care plans are one requirement of the OCM that has become an industry standard.
“Many patients now are asking for these care plans, wanting to know what chemotherapy they are getting and the side effects, and what type of cancer they have and things like that,” he said. “Many patients are also expecting navigation services [to] help prevent them from going to the hospital.
“So, you have to adopt some of these features just to make sure you're providing good care for your patients,” he added. “Gone are the days where patients will just blindly go to their oncologist without having that additional support, because they'll find somebody else.”
As the number of therapeutic options increases, the patient’s care goals—including tolerance for AEs—increasingly becomes a factor in making clinical decisions. Sequencing of therapies in diseases such as lymphoma or multiple myeloma becomes critical; this discussion may include factors such as the patient’s ability to wait for a customized CAR T-cell therapy, and the decision-making process may compare the availability of these therapies with a bispecific antibody.
Results to be presented during the meeting include: