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Why Community-Based Care Is Vital to Cancer Research

May 17, 2023

Texas Oncology is committed to paving the way for new breakthroughs in cancer research with a robust statewide clinical trials program.

An active advocate and participant in cancer research, Debra Patt, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, executive vice president, public policy, payer relations, and strategic initiatives at Texas Oncology, was recently elected as the Designated Community Oncologist on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO).

In recognizing National Cancer Research Month, Dr. Patt discusses why community-based care is vital to cancer research, the impact of clinical trial accessibility at the local level, and what to know about the importance of research as a patient.

In recently being elected to the Designated Community Oncologist seat at ASCO, why do you think it’s important to have a physician who represents community cancer care in the national cancer research space?

Cancer research helps us to lower rates. Cancer care has evolved tremendously over the last few decades and for many, their cancer type may require a more integrated treatment like other chronic diseases. This level of care allows patients to receive their medication with minimized side effects while living their life to the fullest. In order to continue this cadence and have accessibility to these groundbreaking clinical trials, it’s important as cancer researchers that we continue our commitment to clinical research in the community practice setting.

At Texas Oncology, we’ve prioritized this in many ways. We collaborate with the US Oncology Network, which brings a wide range of clinical trials to our patients and participating sites of service. We also work with Sarah Cannon Research Institute, NEXT Oncology, Mary Crowley Cancer Center, and many local hospital systems in addition to investigator-initiated trials. Altogether, we’re able to focus on giving our patients the cancer care and accessibility they deserve, and close to home.

Why is community-based care vital to cancer research and what role does it play?

Community-based care plays a vital role in research and having access to these leading-edge clinical trials at our cancer centers across Texas makes it a reality for the patients we serve in the community. Since being founded, Texas Oncology has been committed to advancing cancer research. We’ve played a role in the development of more than 100 cancer therapies approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Our continued work allows our patients to have access to the latest cancer therapies and treatment options.

How does clinical trial accessibility at the local level impact cancer research findings and/or new treatments?

Accessibility to clinical trials at the local level allows patients to have the latest cancer therapies and medications as a part of their routine treatment plan. If patients didn’t have access in their community, most would have to travel far distances away from home to receive these advanced forms of treatment. In addition, having access locally allows for cancer research to further reflect the population’s diversity. Texas Oncology continues to commit toward participating in studies that allow advanced cancer care to our patients nearby.

What research trends can medical professionals expect to hear about this year at ASCO?

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting is the single best resource for medical professionals to learn about the newest cancer studies and attend presentations that drive the future of cancer care. We’ll see findings on therapies we can take immediately back to our sites of service the very next week. Cancer research is presented throughout the world and in many forums; however, this meeting showcases the sheer volume of research and clinical impact around how we treat the whole patient based off their specific cancer type.

If you could tell patients and/or caregivers one thing about the importance of cancer research, what would it be and why?

I encourage patients to consult with their physician to learn if they’re eligible to enroll in a clinical trial. Participation drives progress in cancer research, and the advancements we’ve seen in cancer care today are a direct impact of the findings we’ve discovered through research. I consider part of providing my patients with the best cancer care is by walking through clinical trial options tailored to their individual cancer.

In your opinion, what else should the cancer community be talking about?

In addition to novel cancer research, I look forward to discovering clinical trials that enhance cancer care and optimize cancer patients’ overall support throughout treatment. For a long time, we only focused on how physicians can treat patients, but now we’ve expanded to incorporate every role in a cancer care team. These efforts require the integration of multiple different clinical and administrative resources to maximize and surround patients with the support they need for an improved outcome and best possible care.

At Texas Oncology, we’ve grown our social work, palliative medicine, virtual neurospecialist, and dietitian support specialties, and invested further in the growth, development, and research in digital health applications, digital education, telemedicine support, virtual support groups, electronic patient reported outcomes, virtual nurse triage, and many other sectors. I think we’re focused on the right things and look forward to where we’re going in the future of cancer care.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.