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Al B. Benson III

I recently had the pleasure of participating in an important announcement—the launch of NCCN Guidelines for Patients that are directly based on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) for health care professionals. As someone who has been involved in developing the NCCN Guidelines for many years, I know very well their value to practicing physicians. As someone who also sees patients on a regular basis, I know that these new Guidelines for Patients can be just as valuable—to patients certainly, but not only to patients. Patient-physician communication has changed drastically over the past several decades. Gone are the days when doctors either withheld the diagnosis of cancer from their patients or handed out information in bite-sized portions, depending on what they perceived the patient could handle—or what they themselves were capable of communicating. Gone too are the days when patients passively accepted whatever information physicians chose to tell them. Patients today are, and should be, active information seekers, and far more importantly, knowledgeable partners in their treatment. The “norm” for patients now is to educate themselves about their disease, often online, to be able to discuss their individual cancers—and to expect their treatment team to involve them in the decision-making process on a step by step basis. And there is certainly a wealth of information, both accurate and less so, available to patients. This is why the NCCN Guidelines for Patients are an important asset to all of us involved in making decisions about treatment options and...
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Al B. Benson III

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Brian Vicuna and Al B. Benson III

The treatment of stage II colon cancer is a controversial issue that has persisted for the past decade. Clinicians must understand that accurate assessment of risk factors is the key to identifying patients who will benefit from treatment. Pathologic staging for colon cancer is based on the American Joint Committee on Cancer 6th edition staging system. In addition, distinct pathologic factors characterize a patient at high risk for stage II disease. More recent retrospective data suggest that molecular markers and gene expression microarrays may be valuable as prognostic and predictive tests. Unfortunately, previous research studies were not powered to properly assess efficacy in stage II disease. However, 2 recent clinical trials, National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project C-07 and MOSAIC, have provided more insight into defining the optimal treatment approach. With the development of the newer therapeutic agents, oxaliplatin and bevacizumab, ongoing trials such as Intergroup E5202 should help determine risk versus benefit of chemotherapy in the adjuvant treatment of stage II colon cancer.

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Mary F. Mulcahy and Al B. Benson III

The past 5 years have seen significant developments in the treatment of colorectal cancer (CRC). New chemotherapy agents with activity in CRC have demonstrated an improvement in survival for patients with advanced CRC. Studies now are focusing on combinations and sequences of chemotherapy agents to prolong survival in second- and even third-line therapies. Oral agents have been developed and are being studied in combination chemotherapy regimens. Development of oral combinations should maintain a survival advantage with the added benefit of convenience for the patient. Drugs designed to act on specific cellular protein targets have also shown activity and are being explored further. Researchers continue to pursue immunotherapy and vaccine therapy. Studies are now focusing on how best to use the available agents. These new agents and new combinations of agents and of approaches have led and should continue to lead to improved outcomes in the treatment of patients with CRC.

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Maxwell T. Vergo and Al B. Benson III

The development of treatment decision strategies to guide the use of adjuvant chemotherapy in patients with stage II colon cancer continues to challenge many oncologists. Clearly, recurrence risk and prognosis for patients with stage II colon cancer can be variable, with subsets of patients with stage II disease at potentially higher risk than some with stage III. Adjuvant chemotherapy seems to produce a consistent relative risk reduction for recurrence across studies. Using clinical calculators to predict individual recurrence risk based on histopathologic and patient data allows this relative risk reduction to be translated into absolute benefit to the patient. In addition, gene expression assays in combination with these histopathologic data may further improve the accuracy of recurrence risk calculations and allow more accurate absolute benefit estimations. This absolute benefit should be discussed with the patient, taking into account the risk of morbidity from chemotherapy and individual preferences to arrive at a shared medical decision regarding adjuvant chemotherapy.

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Suneel D. Kamath, Sheetal M. Kircher and Al B. Benson III

Background: National Cancer Institute (NCI) and nonprofit organization (NPO) funding have driven recent advancements in oncology through research and advocacy. However, some cancers may be underfunded relative to their burden. This study examined the alignment of cancer burden by histology with NCI and NPO funding for each histology. Methods: The GuideStar database was used to find all cancer NPOs with >$5 million (M) in annual revenue (AR) using NTEE codes and 165 cancer-related search terms. Care delivery NPOs were excluded. NPOs were classified by the histology they support. AR was obtained from IRS Form 990s for each NPO. NCI funding allocation across histologies was obtained from the NCI Funded Research Portfolio data. Total funding for each histology was calculated by adding the NCI funding and the ARs for all NPOs in that histology. Cancer burden based on annual incidence, deaths, and person-years of life lost (PYLL) was obtained from SEER data. Comparison of total NCI and NPO funding with incidence, deaths, and PYLL of each histology was done using descriptive statistics and Pearson correlation coefficients. Results: 119 NPOs with total AR of $6 billion were included. 59 (50%) were histology agnostic and accounted for $4.6 billion (76.8%) of total AR. Cancers with the most NPOs were breast (13, 11%), pediatric (13, 11%), leukemia (4, 3.4%) and lung (4, 3.4%). There were no NPOs with AR >$5 M for esophageal, gastric, kidney, or bladder cancers. Cancers with the most combined NCI and NPO funding were breast ($1 billion), leukemia ($448 M), lung ($348 M), and prostate ($303 M). The ratios of combined NCI and NPO funding vs incidence, mortality, and PYLL are shown in Table 1. Cancers with the best funding vs incidence were leukemia, ovarian, and breast. Cancers with the best funding vs deaths were breast, leukemia, and melanoma. Cancers with the best funding vs PYLL were breast, leukemia, and prostate. Colon, liver, lung, and bladder cancers were poorly funded in all 3 metrics. The correlation coefficients between funding and incidence, deaths, and PYLL were 0.74, 0.34, and 0.36, respectively. Conclusions: There is substantial support for cancer research and advocacy in both the government and nonprofit sectors. While funding by cancer type was moderately proportional to incidence, it was poorly correlated with deaths and PYLL. There is significant need to increase awareness and support for many under-supported, but common and highly lethal cancers.

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Robert W. Carlson, Jonathan K. Larsen, Joan McClure, C. Lyn Fitzgerald, Alan P. Venook, Al B. Benson III and Benjamin O. Anderson

The NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) are evidence- and consensus-based clinical practice guidelines addressing malignancies that affect more than 97% of all patients with cancer in the United States. The NCCN Guidelines are used extensively in the United States and globally. Use of the guidelines outside the United States has driven the need to adapt the guidelines based on local, regional, or national resources. The NCCN Guidelines Panels created, vetted, and continually update the NCCN Guidelines based on published scientific data on cancer detection, diagnosis, and treatment efficacy. The guidelines are developed within the context of commonly available resources, methods of payment, societal and cultural expectations, and governmental regulations as they exist in the United States. Although many of the cancer management recommendations contained in the NCCN Guidelines apply broadly from a global perspective, not all do. Disparities in availability and access to health care exist among countries, within countries, and among different social groups in the same country, especially regarding resources for cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment. In addition, different drug approval and payment processes result in regional variation in availability of and access to cancer treatment, especially highly expensive agents and radiation therapy. Differences in cancer risk, predictive biomarker expression, and pharmacogenetics exist across ethnic and racial groups, and therefore across geographic locations. Cultural and societal expectations and requirements may also require modification of NCCN Guidelines for use outside the United States. This article describes the adaptation process, using the recent Latin American adaptation of the 2013 NCCN Guidelines for Colorectal Cancer as an example.