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NCCN Framework for Resource Stratification: A Framework for Providing and Improving Global Quality Oncology Care

Robert W. Carlson, Jillian L. Scavone, Wui-Jin Koh, Joan S. McClure, Benjamin E. Greer, Rashmi Kumar, Nicole R. McMillian, and Benjamin O. Anderson

More than 14 million new cancer cases and 8.2 million cancer deaths are estimated to occur worldwide on an annual basis. Of these, 57% of new cancer cases and 65% of cancer deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. Disparities in available resources for health care are enormous and staggering. The WHO estimates that the United States and Canada have 10% of the global burden of disease, 37% of the world's health workers, and more than 50% of the world's financial resources for health; by contrast, the African region has 24% of the global burden of disease, 3% of health workers, and less than 1% of the world's financial resources for health. This disparity is even more extreme with cancer. NCCN has developed a framework for stratifying the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) to help health care systems in providing optimal care for patients with cancer with varying available resources. This framework is modified from a method developed by the Breast Health Global Initiative. The NCCN Framework for Resource Stratification (NCCN Framework) identifies 4 resource environments: basic resources, core resources, enhanced resources, and NCCN Guidelines, and presents the recommendations in a graphic format that always maintains the context of the NCCN Guidelines. This article describes the rationale for resource-stratified guidelines and the methodology for developing the NCCN Framework, using a portion of the NCCN Cervical Cancer Guideline as an example.

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Ensuring Patient Safety and Access in Cancer Care

Katy Winckworth-Prejsnar, Elizabeth A. Nardi, James McCanney, F. Marc Stewart, Terry Langbaum, Bruce J. Gould, C. Lyn Fitzgerald, and Robert W. Carlson

The inability to obtain the right high-quality cancer care in a timely and safe manner can have devastating results for patients. As cancer care becomes inundated with cutting edge and novel treatments, such as personalized medicine, oral chemotherapy, biosimilars, and immunotherapy, new safety challenges are emerging at increasing speed and complexity. Moreover, shifting federal healthcare policies could have significant implications for the safety and access to high-quality and effective cancer care for millions of patients with cancer. Challenges and opportunities in ensuring patient access to safe, affordable, and high-quality cancer care remain significant within the policy landscape. To address these concerns, NCCN hosted the Ensuring Safety and Access in Cancer Care Policy Summit in June 2017 to discuss pertinent patient safety issues and access implications under the Trump administration, as well as policy and advocacy strategies to address these gaps and build on opportunities moving forward.

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The Value and Process of Inclusion: Using Sensitive, Respectful, and Inclusive Language and Images in NCCN Content

Deborah A. Freedman-Cass, Tanya Fischer, Ash B. Alpert, Juno Obedin-Maliver, Pamela L. Kunz, Wui-Jin Koh, and Robert W. Carlson

A core component of NCCN’s mission is to improve and facilitate equitable cancer care. Inclusion and representation of diverse populations are essential toward this goal of equity. Within NCCN’s professional content, inclusivity increases the likelihood that clinicians are prepared to provide optimal oncology care to all patients; within NCCN’s patient-facing content, it helps ensure that cancer information is relevant and accessible for all individuals. This article describes changes that have been made in the language and images used in the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) and the NCCN Guidelines for Patients to promote justice, respect, and inclusion for all patients with cancer. The goals are to use language that is person-first, nonstigmatizing, inclusive of individuals of all sexual orientations and gender identities, and anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-misogynist, anti-ageist, anti-ableist, and anti–fat-biased. NCCN also seeks to incorporate multifaceted diversity in images and illustrations. NCCN is committed to continued and expanding efforts to ensure its publications are inclusive, respectful, and trustworthy, and that they advance just, equitable, high-quality, and effective cancer care for all.

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Redefining Quality Measurement in Cancer Care

Elizabeth A. Nardi, James McCanney, Katy Winckworth-Prejsnar, Alyssa A. Schatz, Kerin Adelson, Marcus Neubauer, Mary Lou Smith, Ronald Walters, and Robert W. Carlson

Quality measurement in oncology is increasing in significance as payment schemes shift from volume to value. As demand for quality measures increases, challenges in the development of quality measures, standardization across measures, and the limitations of health information technology have become apparent. Moreover, the time and financial burden associated with developing, tracking, and reporting quality measures are substantial. Despite these challenges, best practices and leaders in the field of quality measurement in oncology have emerged. To understand the current challenges and promising practices in quality measurement and to explore future considerations for measure development and measure reporting in oncology, NCCN convened the NCCN Policy Summit: Redefining Quality Measurement in Oncology. The summit included discussion of the current quality landscape and efforts to develop quality measures, use of quality measures in various programs, patient perspective of quality, and challenges and best practices for quality reporting.

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Addressing Survivorship in Cancer Care

James McCanney, Katy Winckworth-Prejsnar, Alyssa A. Schatz, Elizabeth A. Nardi, Andrea J. Dwyer, Christopher Lieu, Yelak Biru, and Robert W. Carlson

As a disease, cancer can affect an individual's well-being, from physical to psychological, social, and even spiritual wellness. The cancer survivor population must navigate a complex, constantly evolving field, with the assistance of their care team, to conquer the disease. To address the unmet needs of the cancer survivorship community, NCCN conducted an environmental scan of existing and emerging aspects of survivorship cancer care through stakeholder meetings with survivors and patient advocacy groups to discuss needs, opportunities, and challenges in providing high-quality, patient-centered cancer survivorship care. The findings of this environmental scan directly informed the corresponding NCCN Patient Advocacy Summit: Addressing Survivorship in Cancer Care, held in Washington, DC, on December 1, 2017. In addition to the many patient advocacy groups, the summit featured stakeholders from all relevant areas of survivorship care. This article encapsulates the findings of the thorough environmental scan and the discussion from the NCCN Patient Advocacy Summit, including identified gaps and needs in addressing survivorship in cancer care.

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Accelerating Advances in Cancer Care Research: A Lookback at the 21st Century Cures Act in 2020

Leigh Gallo, Ronald S. Walters, Jeff Allen, Jenny Ahlstrom, Clay Alspach, Yelak Biru, Alyssa Schatz, Kara Martin, and Robert W. Carlson

The 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), signed into law in 2016, was designed to advance new therapies by modernizing clinical trials, funding research initiatives, and accelerating the development and use of health information technology. To analyze the current issues in cancer care related to the implementation and impact of the Cures Act, NCCN convened a multistakeholder working group. Participants discussed the legislation’s impact on the oncology community since enactment and identified the remaining gaps and challenges as experienced by stakeholders. In June 2020, the policy recommendations of the working group were presented at the virtual NCCN Policy Summit: Accelerating Advances in Cancer Care Research: A Lookback at the 21st Century Cures Act in 2020. The summit consisted of informative discussions and a multistakeholder panel to explore the recommendations and the future of the Cures Act. This article explores identified policy recommendations from the NCCN Working Group and the NCCN Policy Summit, and analyzes opportunities to advance innovative cancer care and patient access to data.

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Advancing More Equitable Care Through the Development of a Health Equity Report Card

Alyssa A. Schatz, Shonta Chambers, Gretchen C. Wartman, Lisa A. Lacasse, Crystal S. Denlinger, Kristen M. Hobbs, Lindsey Bandini, Robert W. Carlson, and Robert A. Winn

The root causes of racial disparities in access to optimal cancer care and related cancer outcomes are complex, multifactorial, and not rooted in biology. Contributing factors to racial disparities in care delivery include implicit and explicit bias, lack of representation of people of color in the oncology care and research workforce, and homogenous research participants that are not representative of the larger community. Systemic and structural barriers include policies leading to lack of insurance and underinsurance, costs of cancer treatment and associated ancillary costs of care, disparate access to clinical trials, and social determinants of health, including exposure to environmental hazards, access to housing, childcare, and economic injustices. To address these issues, ACS CAN, NCCN, and NMQF convened the Elevating Cancer Equity (ECE) initiative. The ECE Working Group developed the Health Equity Report Card (HERC). In this manuscript, we describe the process taken by the ECE Working Group to develop the HERC recommendations, the strategies employed by NCCN to develop an implementation plan and scoring methodology for the HERC, and next steps to pilot the HERC tool in practice settings.

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NCCN Working Group Report: Designing Clinical Trials in the Era of Multiple Biomarkers and Targeted Therapies

Alan P. Venook, Maria E. Arcila, Al B. Benson III, Donald A. Berry, David Ross Camidge, Robert W. Carlson, Toni K. Choueiri, Valerie Guild, Gregory P. Kalemkerian, Razelle Kurzrock, Christine M. Lovly, Amy E. McKee, Robert J. Morgan, Anthony J. Olszanski, Mary W. Redman, Vered Stearns, Joan McClure, and Marian L. Birkeland

Defining treatment-susceptible or -resistant populations of patients with cancer through the use of genetically defined biomarkers has revolutionized cancer care in recent years for some disease/patient groups. Research continues to show that histologically defined diseases are diverse in their expression of unique mutations or other genetic alterations, however, which presents opportunities for the development of personalized cancer treatments, but increased difficulty in testing these therapies, because potential patient populations are divided into ever smaller numbers. To address some of the growing challenges in biomarker development and clinical trial design, NCCN assembled a group of experts across specialties and solid tumor disease types to begin to define the problems and to consider alternate ways of designing clinical trials in the era of multiple biomarkers and targeted therapies. Results from that discussion are presented, focusing on issues of clinical trial design from the perspective of statisticians, clinical researchers, regulators, pathologists, and information developers.

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Bridging the Gap Among Clinical Practice Guidelines for Pain Management in Cancer and Sickle Cell Disease

Alyssa A. Schatz, Thomas K. Oliver, Robert A. Swarm, Judith A. Paice, Deepika S. Darbari, Deborah Dowell, Salimah H. Meghani, Katy Winckworth-Prejsnar, Eduardo Bruera, Robert M. Plovnick, Lisa Richardson, Neha Vapiwala, Dana Wollins, Clifford A. Hudis, and Robert W. Carlson

Opioids are a critical component of pain relief strategies for the management of patients with cancer and sickle cell disease. The escalation of opioid addiction and overdose in the United States has led to increased scrutiny of opioid prescribing practices. Multiple reports have revealed that regulatory and coverage policies, intended to curb inappropriate opioid use, have created significant barriers for many patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, and American Society of Clinical Oncology each publish clinical practice guidelines for the management of chronic pain. A recent JAMA Oncology article highlighted perceived variability in recommendations among these guidelines. In response, leadership from guideline organizations, government representatives, and authors of the original article met to discuss challenges and solutions. The meeting featured remarks by the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, presentations on each clinical practice guideline, an overview of the pain management needs of patients with sickle cell disease, an overview of perceived differences among guidelines, and a discussion of differences and commonalities among the guidelines. The meeting revealed that although each guideline varies in the intended patient population, target audience, and methodology, there is no disagreement among recommendations when applied to the appropriate patient and clinical situation. It was determined that clarification and education are needed regarding the intent, patient population, and scope of each clinical practice guideline, rather than harmonization of guideline recommendations. Clinical practice guidelines can serve as a resource for policymakers and payers to inform policy and coverage determinations.

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NCCN Policy Summit: Cancer Care in the Workplace: Building a 21st Century Workplace for Patients, Survivors, and Caretakers

Victoria Hood, Lindsey Bandini, Taneal Carter, Alyssa Schatz, John Sweetenham, Warren Smedley, Joanna Fawzy Morales, Rebecca V. Nellis, Randy A. Jones, Lynn Zonakis, and Robert W. Carlson

Survival rates for people with cancer and quality of life for survivors have increased significantly as a result of innovations in cancer treatment, improvements in early detection, and improved healthcare access. In the United States, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. As more cancer survivors and patients remain in the workforce, employers must evaluate how they can adjust workplace policies to meet employee and business needs. Unfortunately, many people still encounter barriers to remaining in the workplace following a cancer diagnosis for themselves or a loved one. In an effort to explore the impacts of contemporary employment policies on patients with cancer, cancer survivors, and caregivers, NCCN hosted the Policy Summit “Cancer Care in the Workplace: Building a 21st Century Workplace for Cancer Patients, Survivors, and Caretakers” on June 17, 2022. This hybrid event, through keynotes and multistakeholder panel discussions, explored issues regarding employer benefit design, policy solutions, current best and promising practices for return to work, and how these issues impact treatment, survivorship, and caregiving in the cancer community.