Our Director of Clinical Research, Dr. Christian Thomas, sees quality, personal medicine, and immunotherapy as three key areas of promise, innovation, and change.
In July 2016, NECS was selected to participate in the oncology care model (OCM), a new government-sponsored quality program for cancer care. Practices participating in this model will provide additional quality information such as screening for depression and pain, advanced directive planning, and how to best provide information to patients to help them understand the financial impact of a particular treatment. The OCM also embraces patient participation in clinical trials as a quality metric and supports the implementation of patient navigation in practices to facilitate access to trials. In return, practices will receive additional reimbursement to help pay for the additional services. This is yet another example how practices will be paid for providing medical care to patients in the future. The idea is to move away from seeing as many patients as possible and to improve the quality of care.
Personalized cancer treatment has now become a reality. Recent research has shown how to individualize a patient's treatment based on the specific genetic profile of a patient's tumor, similar to a finger print. With these test results, we are now able to generated treatment plans that are specific for each individual. Research has shown that patients benefit from this technology, as opposed to the “one size fits all” approach.
Another new development in cancer research and treatment is immunotherapy. Until now, most cancer treatments have relied on understanding how to kill cancer cells with chemicals or certain proteins. We now have new technology that allows us to strengthen a patient’s immune system so that the patient's own immune cells can attack and kill cancer cells. Not only is this approach highly effective for some patients, it also does not cause any of the typical treatment related side effects such as feeling tired and hair loss. We are now combining these new immunotherapy medications with other medicines to create even more powerful treatments for our patients.