Randall A. Oyer, MD, shares key highlights from the Association of Community Cancer Centers National Oncology Conference, the future of virtual meetings in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, and innovative efforts dedicated to improving cancer care.
The theme of the 2020 Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) National Oncology Conference focused on the power of innovation and collaboration, according to Randall A. Oyer, MD, 2 components that are needed to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and to address disparities that exist within cancer care.
“This year’s meeting was really about innovation,” said Oyer. “The adversity that we've all [faced because of] the COVID-19 [crisis] really required innovation and people were talking about their experiences and new ways to innovate.”
A highlight of the conference was the tenth annual ACCC Innovator Awards, added Oyer. These awards are a way to recognize forward-thinking Cancer Program Members who have developed innovative and replicable solutions to address important areas of cancer care, such as care delivery economics, team care, and improved patient care.1
Moreover, the ACCC has partnered up with ASCO in an effort to address disparities within cancer care, with a particular focus on increasing participation of racial and ethnic minority populations in cancer treatment trials, explained Oyer.
The organizations have issued a call to action for the cancer community to submit novel approaches and solutions to increase participation and address challenges related to participation for minority patients, including provider bias; challenges with access, insurance coverage, and cost of care; a lack of awareness of trials; and study design barriers.2
“We still need to be part of a bigger community,” said Oyer. “We're all working hard at our home organizations, but there are many ideas out there that can make our work better. The ACCC is a great convener for the whole cancer care team.”
In an interview with OncLive, Oyer, medical director of Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute; medical director of Oncology; medical director of Cancer Risk Evaluation Program; chairman of the Cancer Committee, Lancaster General Health; and president of the ACCC, further discussed key highlights from the meeting, the future of virtual meetings in light of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, and innovative efforts dedicated to improving cancer care.
OncLive: Could you first provide an overview of this year’s ACCC National Oncology Conference? What do you feel were the key highlights?
Oyer: First of all, the ACCC National Oncology Conference this year was a lot of fun. Part of the reason was that it was really nice to see people. I haven't gone very far from my home for a while [due to the COVID-19 pandemic] and I was missing my ACCC colleagues. As such, it was really nice to see a lot of people and even meet some new people by way of video. [The virtual format is] the new way to meet people.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, many conferences have moved to a virtual format. How do you think the crisis will affect the future of oncology conferences?
We've learned a new way to be and we’ve learned a new set of expectations. Many things will change, and I believe we will continue to meet virtually. On one hand, [the virtual format] provided people with the opportunity to participate who wouldn't be able to travel or who wouldn't be able to take a full day off from work. On the other hand, there is the missing component of being in the same room with people, bumping into people, unexpected overlay, unexpected introductions, or an unexpected exchange of ideas—those experiences are so rich. We're just going to have to learn how to make this [‘new normal’] work [going forward].
Are any projects or efforts that ACCC is involved in that you wanted to highlight?
One highlight of the conference was ACCC’s shining the light on their members who are [working on] innovative projects. This is the 10th year of the ACCC Innovator Awards and over that time period, 81 programs have been honored for innovative solutions. This year, there were some innovations that looked at care delivery economics, care of the team, and better care for patients.
One of the reasons why ACCC is so focused on innovation is that every innovation requires collaboration; that really is the hallmark of the ACCC organization. We collaborate across our teams. ACCC is the 1 cancer care organization that does represent the whole team: the social workers, the administrators, the finance people, the physicians, the nurses, [and so on].
Every new innovative project requires many different sets of eyes. People need to assess a problem, be willing to share ideas with their teams, and be brave enough to [implement] new ideas. You need to have people who are willing to do the hard work of paying attention to the details and ensuring that results are achieved. We were really proud to see that 8 of our members had projects that were replicable and could [serve as] lessons to others. In fact, there are some [ideas] that I would like to try at my home organization; they're terrific.
Is there any specific research that you are involved in and wanted to highlight?
I'm really excited about representing the ACCC in a nationwide research project with ASCO. We've just finished a request for ideas as to how we can recruit and serve more minority patients on clinical trials. We know that several gaps exist in clinical research. For example, we know that most patients with cancer are cared for in the community, 85%, and yet most cancer trials come from the medical schools or the universities. As such, there’s a gap between where the cancer trials are available and where they're created.
Another gap in our trial system is that minorities, black patients, other ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, and rural patients, are all underrepresented on clinical trials. ACCC and ASCO are devoted to finding solutions to [address] that. We're looking at ideas that have been submitted. Ideas on how we can educate our providers, educate and involve communities, improve clinical trials, [and increase] accrual through many different methods. We're trying to create a different ecosystem of clinical trials in the community that makes these trials available for minorities and underserved patients. We're specifically looking at trials that affect access to care, models of care, care delivery, equity, outcomes, and so forth.
What is your take-home message regarding the ACCC National Oncology Conference for your colleagues who were unable to attend the meeting?
We've provided a lot of content. We talked about several patient-focused projects, team-focused projects, and a lot of that will make cancer care better for our patients and our providers in the future.
The good news of a virtual meeting is that all the content has been archived and is available online for people who were not able to register before. We hope that people will do that.