ACCC President Talks Community Oncology and Bridging the Research Gap

In an interview with Oncology Learning Network, Randall A. Oyer, MD, President of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC), discusses the basis and goals of his presidency theme, entitled “Community Oncology Can Close the Gap in Cancer Research.”



Hello, my name is Randall Oyer. I'm a Medical Oncologist. I'm the Medical Director of the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is part of the University of Pennsylvania Healthcare System.

It is my privilege to serve this year as the president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC). My organization has been part of the association as a member for 25 years, and I've been its representative for the past 13 years, when I began to serve as the oncology program director, charged with building an oncology program and building a cancer center.

One of the most valuable outside resources that helped me and helped my program develop expertise and develop programs that we hadn't previously built was the ACCC through its programming, through its meetings, and through the wonderful skilled professionals that I've met through the organization.

Today we are going to talk about the upcoming theme and focus for the ACCC over the next year. What they term the President's Theme.

This year's President's Theme is entitled “Community Oncology Can Close the Gap in Cancer Research.” We look at the ACCC as the how‑to organization. We know many of our members have questions about clinical trials—how to manage them, how to open them, how to find them. We intend to try to help our members answer those questions over the course of the year.

The ACCC always starts its programming by asking its members what the key issues are that affect its programs. In our annual survey to our members we learned over the past year that over a quarter of our members were adding partnerships so that they, themselves, could bring cancer research into their own communities so that they would begin to develop the expertise to open programs, and we want to help.

We're looking at what we believe we've heard from our members the research needs are in their own communities. We look at the following.

First, we hear that people want to improve care and coordination for traditionally underserved populations. With the increasing age of our population, our cancer patients, we know that our members in their programs want to be able to enhance the sensitivity, programming, and specificity for geriatric oncology.

With all the deepened understanding of the molecular and genetic causes of cancer, the difference between cancer cells and normal cells, we want to make sure that we can rapidly bring precision medicine into the community. The molecular testing. The interpretation. The record keeping. All of these factors that underpin the ability for physicians in the community to deliver precision medicine.

We know that most cancer is in the community. Most cancer care is delivered in the community. We all rely on the tremendous research that comes out of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the NCI‑designated cancer centers, but most cancer care is given in the community.

Most people don't get their cancer care directly at one of the NCI‑designated facilities, so we need to make sure that we have that understanding, that learning from the designated NCI community cancer center, but that people can get that level of care in their own communities.

We looked at what our members have asked us, sent in questions, or we've heard in talking at our meetings to develop some helpful tools for our members.

We're looking at producing, over the course of the year, a roadmap for how a program or an individual finds a clinical trial that describes the difference between, for example, cooperative oncology group trials that are available through the NCI, trials that are available through specific universities and trial programs, industry trials, which are very important, and how to go about developing an investigator‑initiated trial at your own organization, or accessing trials through the ACCC.

We will produce a glossary of research or clinical trials terms so that when programs talk to their patients, their staff we're using the same words that are used in clinical trials industry or at the universities so that we're all talking the same language.

We will develop a guide for how to open a clinical trial. This is very regulatory- and process-driven. There's a lot that's involved. That can be daunting the first, second, or third time you've done it.

We have many academic partners and we have many of our members in the community who are doing and have successfully set up clinical trials programs. One of the opportunities we hope that we can develop is a partnership between a program that's already doing community trials and an organization who wants to learn how to do that.

We will use our upcoming meeting in June, where we look at the oncology landscape. We may be doing that meeting virtually, but we will convene a group of ACCC leaders, along with a group of community oncology experts from our membership.

We will talk about how we can refine what we've heard from our membership, how we can address additional questions that are coming into us since we've announced this theme for the year, and how we can make sure that we are able to address our community partners' needs, improve accessibility to clinical trials in the community, and try to improve cancer care.

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