Josh Bilenker, MD, Former Medical Officer for FDA and Partner at Aisling Capital, Named to NCCN Foundation Board

The NCCN Foundation, which through private philanthropy and grants advances the mission of NCCN to improve the quality and effectiveness of care for patients with cancer, welcomes Josh Bilenker, MD, Partner at Aisling Capital and former Medical Officer for the FDA, as the newest member of the Board of the NCCN Foundation.

Dr. Bilenker is a Partner at Aisling Capital, an investment firm that supports leading health care companies in developing and commercializing innovative heath care products. In that role, Dr. Bilenker currently serves as a board director at LensAR, Inc., Roka Bioscience, T2 Biosystems, and ViewRay, Inc., and as a board observer at Aragon Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Bilenker also contributes to the Board of Directors at BioEnterprise.

Previously, Dr. Bilenker was a Medical Officer in the Office of Oncology Drug Products at the FDA. During this time, Dr. Bilenker performed clinical reviews of investigational new drug and biologic licensing applications. He trained as a resident and fellow at the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, earning board certification in medical oncology and internal medicine. While there, Dr. Bilenker authored phase I and II clinical trials and completed training in drug discovery and clinical study design and statistics. Dr. Bilenker received his MD from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and earned his BA from Princeton University where he graduated summa cum laude in English.

“Dr. Bilenker is a notable addition to the NCCN Foundation Board of Directors,” said Patricia Goldsmith, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer. “Dr. Bilenker will provide valuable expertise and guidance given his experience in hematology and oncology practice, as well as business management and finance. The NCCN is certain that Dr. Bilenker will contribute greatly to future NCCN Foundation endeavors.”

“It is an honor and privilege to join the NCCN Foundation Board,” said Dr. Bilenker. “For years, NCCN has set the standard for evidence-based medicine in oncology. Now, through the work of the NCCN Foundation, patients have direct access to the accumulated wisdom of NCCN, in the form of readable guidelines. As new drugs, devices, and diagnostics make their way into the clinic, these guidelines will help give context to the many complex choices patients will be making with their doctors.”

The NCCN Foundation began full operations in 2010. Chaired by Sam Donaldson, ABC News veteran and cancer survivor, the NCCN Foundation Board of Directors comprises members from corporations, academic medical institutions, and advocacy groups who are committed to gaining support for resources and programs for patients with cancer and for research dollars.

NCCN Academy Examines Healthcare Reform and Innovations in Oncology

On July 10–11, 2012, in Philadelphia, NCCN convened its biannual NCCN Academy for Excellence & Leadership in Oncology. Attending were representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotech industries and policy experts, payors, and patient advocates. These stakeholders gathered for a 1.5 day session to learn about and discuss key issues in oncology. Participants gained knowledge about the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) panel processes, emerging payor initiatives, and innovative collaborations.

Interpretations of Potential Risk

Day one of the program began with an expert roundtable, “On the Cusp of Healthcare Reform,” moderated by Scott Gottlieb, MD, of the American Enterprise Institute, and including Mara G. Bloom, JD, MS, of Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center; Jennifer Carlson from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center; Alice G. Gosfield, Esq., of Alice G. Gosfield and Associates, P.C.; and Kavita Patel, MD, MSHS, of the Brookings Institution Engelberg Center for Healthcare Reform.

Dr. Gottlieb opened the discussion by asking the panel their thoughts on the June 28th US Supreme Court decision to uphold the Accountable Care Act (ACA) and perceived implications.

Dr. Patel noted that, although most of the ACA was upheld, interpretations of the ruling vary. Perhaps the most significant interpretation involves the health care tax and how states would—or not—respond to Medicaid expansion. Depending on the lens through which a state looks, they may be incentivized or de-incentivized to participate, according to analysts. In either case, the path forward for hospitals providing cancer care is uncertain. This ambiguity is soliciting varied responses from healthcare systems and private practices. To maintain revenue streams, these groups are continuing the trend of consolidating resources and expertise, but the price of doing so is not only fiscal.

Productivity, Ms. Bloom reflected as part of Massachusetts General’s experience, can be impacted, even if temporarily, because of the changes in processes and the new control by the parent hospital. Private practices not accustomed to standard operating procedures associated with large health systems require time to acclimate, said Ms. Bloom. She also cautioned that the process of standard operation is labor-intensive and demands constant attention, not only to quality and cost control but also to maintaining a mutual commitment to collaboration between the parent hospital and practices.

Vertical integration presents a cadre of concerns, not least of which is sustaining quality care. All panel members acknowledged that consolidation does not necessarily mean cost savings, and cost containment may be a zero-sum game, said Dr. Patel. Panel members discussed how the fundamentals of the way clinicians practice must change, and that, even after reform, the model remains basically fee-for-service. Inevitably, hospitals will be pressured to reduce resources, including salary for specialty clinicians, said Ms. Bloom, possibly contributing to a decreasing number of oncologists.

An additional concern discussed was the challenge of obtaining core grants, a pillar of academic medicine. Although the ACA does not address research, institutions are still uncertain about how to continue. If the government fails to invest in academic research and medicine, subsequently, patients will be impacted negatively, said Ms. Carlson.

The Sunshine Act

Financial and research concerns relate to not only how these items will be paid for but how they will be reported. “The Sunshine Act: Will It Cause the Perfect Storm?” copresented by Xcenda, was the second panel. Dr. Gottlieb moderated and was joined by John Deno, JD, from Bristol-Myers Squibb; Christian Downs, MHA, JD, of the Association of Community Cancer Centers; Kristine Flemister, PharmD, of Xcenda, LLC; Jerald P. Radich, MD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; and Kavita Patel, MD, MSHS, of the Brookings Institution Engelberg Center for Healthcare Reform.

Similar to the health insurance mandate, the Sunshine Act portion of the ACA has been intensely debated. It is feared that this act, created to increase public transparency, may ultimately stifle innovation. And the lack of clarity may be to blame.

Mr. Downs noted that because the provisions of the Act are unclear, some physicians are taking a highly conservative approach by refusing to participate in activities sponsored by industry, including continuing education. The impact on continuing education is not the only concern. Research is also at risk, especially for rare tumor types; Drs. Radich and Patel reflected that, with fewer experts, advances for rare or orphan diseases could be vulnerable due to not only the public misperceptions of why they are receiving funding, but also the administrative burden of reporting.

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