Dinesh Kapur, MD, chair, OneCouncil, and managing partner, Eastern Connecticut Hematology and Oncology (ECHO), speaks on efforts made by by community oncology practices to improve minority representation in oncology clinical trials and implications of the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of the 2021 Community Oncology Conference.
Dinesh Kapur, MD, is the chair of OneCouncil and managing partner of Eastern Connecticut Hematology and Oncology (ECHO).
There will be several panel discussions at this year’s Community Oncology Conference centered on socioeconomic disparities and personalized medicine. Can you speak on progress made in these areas and what perspectives you will be interested to hear at the conference?
If you look at what last year did for all of us with COVID-19, it has really brought to the forefront the disparities across the board in care and in racial, ethnic disparities in cancer care delivery, in health care delivery.
As part of our initiative at ECHO and OneOncology, we have actually focused on a lot of these things and one of the things that we have done is we are actually partnering with Roche Genentech, our research partner in devising clinical trials that are targeting and focusing on minorities. So, clinical trials that are going to be truly focused on our minority patients.
Now, when you look at personalized medicine, I think the whole game is changing across the board. So, our patients are getting tested for various mutations through next-generation sequencing testing, and because of that, we are able to pick up targets that we can focus on as far as cancer care is concerned.
The entire model has to be looking at personalized medicine. And how do you have access to personalized medicine, testing, and clinical trials? Newer medications? How do you mitigate the financial toxicities with these things—these medicines are not cheap, they are very expensive. We need to have accessibility to these medicines. So, I'm really looking forward to all of those things through our work at COA.
Can you speak on how community oncology has worked to optimize cancer care during the pandemic?
I’ll tell you something, community oncology stepped up big time. I know for a fact that our doctors, our nurses, medical assistants, front office staff, we implemented safety protocols so quickly in our practices that practices never closed. Patients were not affected at all as far as their treatments and all that is concerned.
We used remote technologies like telemedicine and all very quickly so that patients did not feel left out, even for a minute. That was actually a very spectacular thing that happened so quickly with us, and through our partnership with OneOncology, we were able to implement all these protocols at a national level amongst all our practices.
So, I'll give you an example. When everybody else was struggling about PPE [personal protective equipment], we were struggling as well. One of our partner practices in New York, they were able to send gloves and masks to our practice. So, that is the real value of collaboration and partnership. So that was one.
Just recently, due to all the snow storms and ice storms that we've all encountered throughout the country, there was disruption and delays in getting supplies for our practices. And we were, again, able to get them by road or by whatever way possible. So, we've been able to do a lot of things, including putting in excellent safety protocols in our practices. We've gone over and beyond having multiple checkpoints in our own practice.
Even though the organizations have put their own, we've put in 2 or 3 safeguards in our practices so that patients don't feel even for one minute that there is any disruption in their care or there is even any compromise in safety protocols.