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Oct 14, 2022

Dr. Cardinale Smith, of the Mt. Sinai Health System, and Dr. Stephanie Wheeler, of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, discuss key research featured at the 2022 ASCO Quality Care Symposium, including practical solutions to advance equity, new trends in cancer care delivery, and novel approaches in palliative and supportive care.



Dr. Cardinale Smith: Welcome to the ASCO Daily News podcast. I'm Dr. Cardinale Smith, a professor in the division of Hematology and Medical Oncology and Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, and the chair-elect of the 2022 ASCO Quality Care Symposium.

I'm your guest host today and delighted to welcome the chair of the Symposium, Dr. Stephanie Wheeler. Dr. Wheeler is a professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management and associate director of Community Outreach and Engagement at the University of North Carolina Leinberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

We'll be discussing practical solutions and key research to advance equity and quality in cancer care, new trends in cancer care in the home and local community, novel approaches in palliative and supportive care, and other key takeaways from the meeting.

Our full disclosures are available in the transcript of this episode, and disclosures relating to all episodes of the ASCO Daily News podcast are available on our transcripts at:

Dr. Wheeler, it's great to be speaking with you today.

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Thank you, Dr. Smith. I'm excited to be here.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: Well, I'm super excited that I just got to see you, and it was fantastic that we had a hybrid event that really allowed our participants to meet in person and allowed folks who couldn't be in person to participate virtually.

Cancer health equity was a major theme this year with sessions that explored how to incorporate equity into our work. Can you highlight a few takeaways for us?

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Absolutely. And yes, it was such a delight to see you in person. And I'll just note that at this 10th anniversary of the Quality Care Symposium, we had record attendance - over 700 participants. So, I was really excited to have that level of engagement in this meeting.

So, you know that as a planning committee, we really prioritized centering equity in our content this year, and I think it was reflected in every session at the meeting. Our very first educational session featured Drs. Chanita Hughes Halbert, Meera Vimala Ragavan, Victoria Blinder, and Sam Cykert, as well as community advocate, Terrence Muhammad, from the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative.

Together, they provided important foundational and conceptual context to really set the stage for the rest of the meeting. Most importantly, they discussed specific evidence-based interventions designed to improve racial, socioeconomic, and rural health equity. These included the Accure Realtime Health Alerts Intervention with Navigation and Bias Training and Financial Hardship screening.

Later in the meeting, we heard from Dr. Joannie Ivory presenting Abstract 68, who shared that we really need to take our trials where minoritized and historically disadvantaged populations live. In that study, geographic areas with greater numbers of black residents did a better job recruiting black participants to clinical trials, and the trial itself built in structural factors designed to ensure that at least 30% black participants were accrued.

I also want to shine a light on the wonderful abstracts that were presented by Drs. Qasim Hussaini and Qinjin Fan, Abstract 69 and 3, which focused on association between historical housing discrimination and modern-day mortgage discrimination in colon and lung cancer treatments and outcomes respectively. I think this work just further underscores that racism is structural and societal and that we need to be paying attention to not only how we deliver oncology care, but policy in the banking world, the housing world, education, transportation infrastructure, and so much more, if we're serious about undoing disparities in cancer.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: Yeah, and I'm probably biased since I had a role in planning this meeting. I definitely appreciate the focus on not just calling out these issues, but really thinking about how we start implementing interventions to really overcome them. Thank you for that really wonderful summary. The symposium also featured many trends in quality care, such as patient-reported outcomes measurement to monitor quality and patients' experiences.

What are the sessions and abstracts that you think will give our listeners new ideas about how to integrate patient-reported outcomes into real-world settings?

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Well, as you know, this continues to be an ongoing theme of the ASCO Quality Symposium. And I was really particularly encouraged this year that the focus was on implementation of PRO monitoring in real-world settings. So, just to highlight a few of the sessions that stood out to me were, dual abstracts 243 and 242 that were presented by Drs. Sandra Wong and Jessica Bian, showing symptom-reporting implementation in the medical oncology space, as well as the surgical oncology space, participating in the eSyM study at multiple cancer centers.

In addition, we had an educational session that followed in which Drs. William Dale, Manali Patel and Sarah Hawley, presented work describing their efforts to implement geriatric assessment, multimodal symptom-control monitoring interventions in racially diverse populations, and a prostate cancer symptom-focused self-management intervention respectively.

Then towards the end of the meeting, we also heard from Mike Hassett, presenting Abstract 241, who talked about differences in web versus mobile devices for ePRO reporting, and how those can really elicit different types of symptoms that are reported by different types of patients. We know that the digital divide is real in America, and so as we think about how to get patients to report their symptoms in meaningful, actionable ways in real-time, we have to be mindful of the modalities in which we're eliciting those symptoms.

So, it's clear to me that the discussion has really moved beyond why we need to monitor patient-reported outcomes. I think Ethan Basch’s work and others has really demonstrated that clearly to how best we can optimize it for patients' benefits while working within the constraints of existing EHRs and workflows, and of course, the constraints of our Wi-Fi connectivity in rural communities.

Let me ask you a question. How about that? So, the palliative care abstract track was a new feature this year, and I was really excited about it. And I'd really love to know from your perspective as a specialist in Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, how do new approaches that are going to be important in oncology best meet the needs of our patients? And how did this year's session content advance that field directly?

Dr. Cardinale Smith: In addition to the implementation of patient-reported outcomes, which you spoke about, which I think is really incredibly critical, especially because we know that the data suggests that that's also associated with not only improvement of quality of life, but also survival. I was really excited to help moderate a session along with Dr. Shanthi Sivendran on the panel focused around advanced care planning, and really thinking about, "Is it time for a change?" And so, on that panel with us, were experts leading advanced care planning, Drs. Alcorn, Hickman, Montgomery, Paladino, and Rhodes. And really the topic of the conversation centered on changing the frame of thinking away from focusing just on documentation, but more about the conversation itself, and the focus on goal-concordant care, and how do we align goals and values with the cares received, and how do we talk about that?

We also talked about how we align that with measurement. So, as we move towards value-based care in Oncology, how do we have better outcome measurements to capture impact? Like recently approved measures in the palliative care space of being seen and heard that was discussed.

And shifting gears a little bit, we heard in an oral abstract presentation number 300 by Dr. Riaz, talking about outcomes of hospitalized patients with solid cancers receiving immunotherapy. We know that that is a group who are often receiving treatment closer to the end of their life in the hospital setting, and we don't have lots of data about how successful those treatments are. And what that data demonstrated among 159 patients over four academic medical centers, is that about approximately 30% of them who received inpatient immunotherapy actually died in the hospital. And so, I think that has really important implications as we think about the quality of life for these patients, as we also think about those quality metrics that we have to be adherent to.

Continuing to think about how that impacts financial stressors for patients. You know, financial toxicity is a recurring theme at many of our ASCO meetings, and at this Quality meeting, we had a session that featured a multi-layered approach to financial toxicity solutions. Can you tell us about some of the key features of this approach?

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Of course. Yeah. This was a wonderful session. I just have to note that the session on advanced care planning, one of the things that I really loved about that, before I talk about financial toxicity, was that the roundtable focus of that session, that particular modality, I think, just lent itself so well to the type of discussion that we were having, and it just felt very interactive. We had lots of great input from the audience, and I've continued to hear, since the meeting, that people really appreciated that. And I have to attribute your leadership there to thinking carefully about how to do that session. So, we should think about that more in the future as well.

Turning to financial toxicity, this, like equity, I think, was a recurring theme of this meeting. And in particular, I think the poster sessions also covered a lot of content in the financial hardship space. So, you mentioned the educational session focused on multi-layered approaches to solutions here. And this session featured new work from folks like Dr. Maria Pisu, Samilia Obeng-Gyasi, and Emeline Aviki, and they were all talking about interventions in their cancer centers that were focused on timely identification of financial hardship, and different ways in which it can be screened for and that it can be actionably responded to.

And then, Dr. Aviki described approaches that their center has used to really develop a multidisciplinary financial working group to address concerns. And I thought that was really creative and showed that all of the right stakeholders were at the table at Memorial Sloan Kettering. And then that session finished with remarks by Joanna Morales about the legal parameters of financial hardship, which I think are increasingly being understood as a really important determinant of poor outcomes. And we all know the legal system is incredibly difficult to navigate for people who don't have a legal background, and I love that she described some of the actionable ways in which people can do things like: better understand their employment protections, better advocate for themselves to be sure that their workplace accommodations are being responded to, and also thinking about their ability to advocate more for themselves when it comes to things like social security, disability insurance applications, and the legal parameters there.

She also talked about policy options, and so I think this is a must-listen-to session for anybody who's interested in thinking about screening for and developing institution-wide efforts to address financial hardship through identification, and through legal approaches and levers that can mitigate and hopefully prevent it.

By next year, I think it's important that we know that there are at least five NCI-funded clinical trials underway that are testing additional navigation and insurance literacy interventions in multi-sites across the country. And so, I think it'll be really important to see what happens with those studies as they move forward. And there is an NCI-supported financial hardship session and workshop that is happening later this week that Dr. Janet De Moor invited all ASCO Quality attendees to come to. So, more on this, I think in the future, but I don't see this as a topic that will be left off the agenda for the ASCO Quality Symposium for many years to come.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: Yeah, and hopefully we'll be able to have some of that data presented at the next meeting next year. And just following up on that theme of financial burdens for our patients, I really would like to encourage anyone who didn't get a chance to hear this year's keynote lecture from Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel of The University of Pennsylvania, to really take some time and go take a listen to it. Dr. Emanuel focused on payment structure and models and had several key takeaways that I thought were really important. His main conclusions were that we need to think through new policies related to drug pricing and accelerated approval, as these have really important implications for the cost of cancer care.

He also talked about how oncologists and those of us in the cancer care space and cancer care delivery space, have an increasing role to sort of nudge the NIH to think about their role in the research and development process for drugs, and to boost clinical trial enrollment. Specifically thinking about the enrollment of minoritized populations.

And then lastly, and probably most provocative, which is one of the reasons why we really wanted him to come and to speak at this meeting, is that we know financial toxicity is significant and needs to be addressed. And he proposed that once a person is diagnosed with cancer, insurance companies, Medicare, should eliminate any deductibles, co-payments, or co-insurance, and other types of cost-sharing for our cancer patients, which I think is an interesting viewpoint.

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And as a health policy scholar, I was sort of jumping in my seat with excitement over some of the bold and innovative solutions that he put forward.

I think another compelling speaker, and I know you'll agree with me, is Dr. Otis Brawley. He's the Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Oncology and Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University, and he was honored with the Joseph Simone Quality Care Award, which of course, is focused on, really, lifetime achievements in the areas of quality care delivery in cancer. He's been such a champion of cancer care equity, and really has devoted his whole career to advancing cancer prevention, screening, and treatment strategies, to end the racial, socioeconomic, and rural disparities that we see in prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer.

One of the things that he really emphasized that I appreciated is that we have to be more thoughtful about the ways in which we think about cancer health disparities, recognizing that more treatment is not always good treatment, and the more money that we spend on futile treatments and unnecessary treatments, and unnecessary care, that actually wastes resources that we could have otherwise distributed more fairly to our marginalized and minoritized populations. And so, he made a very direct argument between overspending, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment in cancer, and how that actually contributes to disparities in care, and disparities in outcomes.

And I think that that really motivates us to not only look at the national movements in health policy reforms as important to do from an efficiency perspective and from a cost-control perspective because we know that healthcare costs in America are wildly out of sync with the rest of the world and unsustainable, but also because they're a key contributor to differences and outcomes that we see, and that we have a moral imperative to address.

So, I was just really inspired by his talk. He covered so much territory in a small amount of time, and I think his talk in particular, combined with Dr. Emanuel's talk, really set the stage for us to think about the integration of policy, and equity, and care delivery together as we move forward in this field.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: Yeah, I am definitely a fan, and I think to highlight both of them, there are tangible things that we can all walk away in our everyday lives and start putting into practice, which I think is key for us to move the needle on any of these things.

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Yes. And I might say just in response to that, that towards the end of the session, we had that great oral abstract session that Melissa Simon and Blase Polite were the discussants for, and they really continued this theme of not just really unpacking these deeply-rooted social and historical root determinants of differences in outcomes, differences in quality, and problematic equity issues in cancer care delivery. But I think that they also gave us a number of things, as you said, that each of us can do in a more meaningful way on a daily basis. You know, being more aware, promoting others, sponsoring others from different backgrounds, really standing aside and allowing others to shine, and that has been a theme of this meeting. It's something that we wrote about last year, that this meeting is a place where junior scholars and trainees can come and connect and can really find not only a place here but can find a stage here. And so, I think some of the comments that they encouraged us to think about were specifically related to professional development and lifting up others, and paying it forward, and it resonated with me, in addition to the many other things they suggested around just how our healthcare systems are designed, and how we need to break down barriers.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: Well said. I could not have said it any better.

Thank you, Dr. Wheeler, for coming on the podcast to give us these highlights from the 2022 ASCO Quality Care Symposium.

Our listeners can find the links to the abstracts we've discussed on the transcript of this episode.

Dr. Stephanie Wheeler: Thank you, Dr. Smith. It's my pleasure to be here with you today and to have co-hosted this planning committee and this meeting with you, and I am so thrilled for your leadership next year as you take the gavel, take the stage, and lead us forward.

Dr. Cardinale Smith: I can't wait to get started.

And to you, our listeners, thank you for your time today. If you value the insights that you hear on the ASCO Daily News podcast, please take a moment to rate, review, and subscribe wherever you get your podcast.


The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions.

Guest statements on the podcast do not express the opinions of ASCO. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy, should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement.

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Dr. Cardinale Smith


 Dr. Stephanie Wheeler


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A Novel Approach to Address Financial Toxicity

Dr. Derek Raghavan Has a Remedy to Mitigate Financial Toxicity in Cancer Treatment

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Dr. Stephanie Wheeler:

Research Funding (institution): Pfizer Foundation

Travel, Accommodations, Expenses: Pfizer

Dr. Cardinale Smith:

None to disclose