Cancer Centers in the News

The following links highlight some of the most up-to-date news from the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. The media coverage below includes major national news outlets, industry magazines, medical journals, and press releases.

The news is listed in reverse chronological order for ease of use.

Lung Cancer Patients May Benefit from Delayed Chemotherapy after Surgery (Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital)
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Cancers Evade Immunotherapy by “Discarding the Evidence” of Tumor-Specific Mutations (The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins)
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Hospice Care Linked to Higher Family Satisfaction (Reuters Health)
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Little Survival Benefit and Higher Costs in Advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Associated with New Drugs (University of Colorado Cancer Center)
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Comprehensive Study of Esophageal Cancer Reveals Several Molecular Subtypes, Provides New Insight into Increasingly Prevalent Disease (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)
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Vaccine Shows Promising Results for Early-Stage Breast Cancer Patients (Moffitt Cancer Center)
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Obamacare Plans Don't Always Include Top Cancer Centers (NPR Shots Blog)
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For Some Patients in Marketplace Plans, Access to Cancer Centers Is Elusive (Kaiser Health News/NPR)

Getting cancer is scary. Discovering that your marketplace plan doesn’t give you access to leading cancer centers may make the diagnosis even more daunting. As insurers’ shrink their provider networks and slash the number of plans that offer out-of-network coverage, some consumers are learning that their treatment options can be limited.
This article features commentary from Dr. Robert Carlson, CEO of NCCN, and representatives from several NCCN Member Institutions. 

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Fatty Acids May Help Target Ovarian Cancer (Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University)

In a recent publication, Northwestern Medicine scientists and collaborators at Purdue University proposed a new marker to identify ovarian cancer stem cells, which may lead to the development of a new class of drugs that could target those cells for eradication.

Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University is one of the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. 

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New Study Highlights Role for Immune Cells in Cancer’s Ability to Evade Immunotherapy (Roswell Park Cancer Institute)

One of the main reasons cancer remains difficult to treat is that cancer cells have developed a multitude of mechanisms that allow them to evade destruction by the immune system. One of these escape mechanisms involves a type of immune cell called myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). A recent study led by Sharon Evans, PhD, Professor of Oncology and Immunology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, provides new insight into how MDSCs enable tumor cells to circumvent immune attack and offer the potential for improving cancer immunotherapy. 
Roswell Park Cancer Institute is one of the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. 

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Experimental Brain Cancer Treatment Is a Success (TIME Magazine)

Using the immune system to beat cancer is quickly becoming a promising new strategy for battling tumors. But most of the success so far has been with blood cancers like lymphomas and leukemias. Immunotherapy, as it’s called, has yet to prove itself with solid tumors like breast, prostate, lung, colon and brain cancers.
But in a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers led by Dr. Behnam Badie from the City of Hope Beckman Research Institute and Medical Center say that the same immune-based therapy that is successful against blood cancers also helped a patient with advanced brain cancer.
City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. 

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Reducing Radiation Successfully Treats HPV-Positive Oropharynx Cancers and Minimizes Side Effects (Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital)

Human papillomavirus-positive oropharynx cancers (cancers of the tonsils and back of the throat) are on rise. After radiation treatment, patients often experience severe, lifelong swallowing, eating, and nutritional issues. However, new clinical trial research shows reducing radiation for some patients with HPV-associated oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinomas can maintain high cure rates while sparing some of these late toxicities.
Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital is one of the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. 

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Study Potentially Explains Vulnerability of Young Cancer Patients to Treatment Toxicities (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute)

Scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute say they have discovered a potential explanation for why brain and heart tissues in very young children are more sensitive to collateral damage from cancer treatment than older individuals. Reporting in Cancer Cell, they show that the tissues in these still-developing organs are more prone to apoptosis, or programmed cell death, when subjected to toxic stresses like chemotherapy and radiation.
Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center | Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center is one of the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. 

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Long-Term Anti-Inflammatory Drug Use May Increase Cancer-Related Deaths for Certain Patients (The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute)

Regular use of over-the-counter non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen is associated with an increased risk of dying in patients diagnosed with Type 1 endometrial cancers, according to a new population-based study led by The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute is one of the 27 NCCN Member Institutions. 

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Improving the Utility of Value Tools in Cancer Care for Patients

NCCN will host its annual patient advocacy summit on December 9 in Washington, DC to explore gaps in current value tools, as well as patient definitions of value.

(FORT WASHINGTON, PA, November 30, 2016)  — Across the oncology field, there is a mounting pressure to improve quality and define value of cancer care from a patient perspective. This need to define value is recognized by key stakeholders in oncology, a variety of whom have begun to develop value tools and calculators to determine the most valuable treatment options. Intended for use in the shared decision-making process, these tools must reflect the most accurate and timely treatment options and evaluate value based on individual patients’ needs and preferences. Therefore, it is imperative that these tools not only provide information to help patients make decisions regarding their cancer care, but that they do so in a way that is easily attainable and understandable for patients. Despite current innovative tools and initiatives around value, there still exists a significant need for additional patient-centered value tools.

On Friday, December 9, 2016, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), as part of its Oncology Policy Program, will convene its annual Patient Advocacy Summit at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. This year’s summit, Value Tools for Patients in Cancer Care, will highlight the findings and recommendations of NCCN’s multi-stakeholder Value Tools for Patients in Cancer Care Working Group, which included patients, patient advocates, clinicians, social workers, and financial planners. The summit will bring together these stakeholder groups, as well as payers, industry, and government representatives, to explore how patients define value in cancer care; and discuss the gaps, needs, and utility of value tools for patients. 

Moderated by Clifford Goodman, PhD, The Lewin Group, the summit will commence with a Working Group report delivered by Alan Balch, PhD, Patient Advocate Foundation, and Lisa Lentz, MPH, NCCN, followed by a panel discussion of the gaps in current tools and how to address these gaps in decision-making preparedness. The first panel discussion, Gaps of Value Tools for Patients in Cancer Care, features the following experts:

  • Alan Balch, PhD, Patient Advocate Foundation
  • Jack Gentile, Harborside Press, Patient Perspective
  • Bruce Gould, MD, Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers
  • Barbara Jagels, RN, MHA, CPHQ, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
  • Michael B. Lawing, Kidney Cancer Association, Cancer Advocate
  • Laura Porter, MD, Colon Cancer Alliance, Patient Perspective

The second half of the summit will focus on the utility of value tools for patients, beginning with a demonstration of a Breast Cancer Surgical Decision Support iPad Tool by Sandhya Pruthi, MD, of Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, followed by an expert panel discussion titled, Understanding Principles and Parameters of Value Tools for Patients in Oncology. The second roundtable will cover the challenges to and feasibility of widespread adoption of value tools, as well as how to adopt standard processes with individual needs of the patient.  The following experts will participate in the panel:

  • Kate Chenok, MBA, Chenok Associates
  • James Randolph (Randy) Hillard, MD, Michigan State University, Patient Perspective
  • Linda House, RN, BSN, MSM, Cancer Support Community
  • Sandhya Pruthi, MD, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
  • Scott Shortenhaus, Lilly Oncology, PACE Program
  • Beckie VonRuden, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Patient Perspective

On-site demonstrations of the following value tools will be available to attendees:

For more information or to register, visit


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Recording Now Available! NCCN Press Conference - JUST BAG IT: The NCCN Campaign for Safe Vincristine Handling

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NCCN Challenges Medical Community to “Just Bag It” to Eradicate Deadly Medical Error

(FORT WASHINGTON, PA, November 10, 2016)  As part of its mission to improve the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care so that patients can live better lives, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) today announced the launch of Just Bag It: The NCCN Campaign for Safe Vincristine HandlingThis campaign encourages health care providers to adopt a policy to always dilute and administer vincristine in a mini IV-drip bag to prevent a deadly medical error.

Vincristine is a chemotherapy agent, widely used in patients with Leukemia or Lymphoma, which should be administered intravenously, or directly into the patient’s vein. When it enters the blood, it is highly effective at blocking the growth of cancer by preventing cells from separating.  However, vincristine is a neurotoxin that causes peripheral neuropathy when given intravenously and profound neurotoxicity if given into the spinal fluid, which flows around the spinal cord and brain. 

Many patients who receive vincristine have a treatment regimen that includes other chemotherapy drugs that are administered intrathecally, or injected into the spinal fluid with a syringe. If vincristine is mistakenly administered into the spinal fluid, it is uniformly fatal, causing ascending paralysis, neurological defects, and eventually death.

In 2005, NCCN Chief Executive Officer Robert W. Carlson, MD, a medical oncologist, witnessed such a tragedy with a 21 year-old patient with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma named Christopher Wibeto. Wibeto was transferred to Carlson’s care after receiving incorrectly administered vincristine at another hospital. Carlson watched the young man go from having a likely curable condition to deteriorating and dying within four days. Motivated by this tragic experience, Carlson spearheaded a national effort to address this deadly error when he arrived at NCCN, enlisting the help of its Best Practices Committee, which is dedicated to improving cancer treatment protocols.

To ensure that vincristine is always administered properly, NCCN has issued guidelines advising health care providers to always dilute and administer vincristine in a mini IV-drip bag and never use a syringe to administer the medication. This precaution renders it impossible to accidentally administer the medication into the spinal fluid and greatly decreases the chances of improper dosage.

All 27 NCCN Member Institutions have adopted policies in line with these guidelines, which are also recommended by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, the Joint Commission, the World Health Organization, and the Oncology Nursing Society.

“We are proud of this achievement and grateful for the support and participation of our Member Institutions in reaching this goal,” Carlson said. “Our efforts will not stop here. We challenge all medical centers, hospitals, and oncology practices around the nation and the world to implement this medication safety policy so this error never occurs again.”

Surveys issued by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices (ISMP) show that over time, more hospitals have adopted a policy to always bag vincristine. According to ISMP data, the number of hospitals that have fully implemented the policy across their practice nearly doubled between February 2014 and February 2016. Earlier surveys indicated a similar increase between 2005 and 2012. Still, only about half of all respondents indicated that they have implemented the policy in all treatment settings, indicating that there is a long way to go.

With 125 known cases of accidental death in the U.S. and abroad since the inception of vincristine use in the 1960s, this error is relatively rare. Still, it is unique in its level of mortality. Improvements in practice over the years, including manufacturer- and pharmacist-issued warning labels, have reduced the number of deaths, but the error continues to occur.

Diluting vincristine into a mini IV-drip bag may entail a change in practice for some providers, but it is well worth the outcome of avoiding preventable deaths, according to Michael Cohen, RPh, MS, FASHP, President of ISMP.

“One more life taken is one too many,” Cohen said. “We are glad an organization of NCCN’s influence has stepped up to bring this issue to national attention. Ending this devastating error should be a priority for all of us who care for and advocate on behalf of patients and their families.”

Some health care providers may associate the use of an IV bag with a heightened risk of extravasation, or the leaking of a chemotherapy drug into the tissue surrounding the intravenous administration site. But research shows that the risk of extravasation is extremely low (<.05%) regardless of how vincristine is administered.1

“The Just Bag It campaign is the latest of NCCN’s long-standing efforts to improve the safe use of drugs in cancer care,” said F. Marc Stewart, MD, Medical Director of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Professor of Medicine at University of Washington, and Co-Chair of the NCCN Best Practices Committee. “For more than 15 years, the Best Practices Committee has worked to ensure the highest standards of safety for patients.”

In 2008, the Best Practices Committee led the charge for NCCN to begin publishing Chemotherapy Order Templates (NCCN Templates®), which detail the most common regimens for many cancers and highlight safety parameters. These resources enable practitioners to standardize patient care, reduce medication errors, and anticipate and manage adverse events. There are more than 1,500 NCCN Templates® for 86 cancer types, and they are used by more than 10,000 subscribers.

For more information about Just Bag It: The NCCN Campaign for Safe Vincristine Handling, or to report that a medical facility has adopted a vincristine policy, visit


1 ISMP. Death and neurological devastation from intrathecal vinca alkaloids: Prepared in syringes = 120; Prepared in minibags = 0. ISMP Medication Safety Alert! 2013;18(18):3.

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Distress Screening in Oncology Leads to Better Doctor-Patient Relationships and Improved Outcomes

As published in JNCCN, a recent project out of Canada shows that programs identifying stress and distress in patients with cancer increase health care professionals’ confidence and awareness of patient-centeredness; outcomes are influenced by site-based navigators and practice size.

FORT WASHINGTON, PA — As many as 60 percent of patients with cancer report distress following a cancer diagnosis, and this stress can have significant impacts on patients’ well-being, resulting in psychosocial problems, physical side effects, and dissatisfaction with their health care.

To examine the impact of distress on patients and health care professionals (HCPs), Linda Watson, PhD, RN, CancerControl Alberta, Alberta Health Services, led the implementation of screening for distress (SFD) as a new standard of care across 17 provincial cancer care sites. More than 250 HCPs across cancer care facilities in Alberta, Canada, participated in educational sessions and adopted this standard of practice. Dr. Watson and Dr. Rie Tamagawa, a senior researcher in provincial practices, found that HCPs who participated in this educational program and utilized SFD routinely reported improved confidence in detecting patient distress and increased awareness of the importance of a patient-centered approach to care.

The study, “The Effects of a Provincial-Wide Implementation of Screening for Distress on Health Care Professionals’ Confidence and Understanding of Patient-Centered Care in Oncology”, is published in the October issue of JNCCN – Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Complimentary access to the article is available until December 15, 2016 at

“Distress can be caused by a variety of issues, concerns, or symptoms, but how distress is experienced and what underlies a person’s distress is unique to each person and changes over time. The SFD helps clinicians identify distressed patients and their issues, concerns, or symptoms driving their distress.  This project has demonstrated that through clinical review and targeted response to the patient priority issue, improved clinical outcomes and patient experiences can be achieved,” said Dr. Watson.

For Dr. Watson’s quality improvement project, the SFD intervention was implemented as a standard of care at all cancer care facilities in Alberta over a 10-month period. HCPs at all sites completed educational sessions prior to implementation of this new practice.  HCPs also completed surveys before and after implementation. Results of the project illustrated a significant increase in participants’ confidence in identifying, assessing, and managing distress, as well as their awareness of person-centered care principles following the implementation. HCPs at smaller community cancer centers reported greater person-centered awareness as compared to HCPs at larger tertiary sites throughout the study. HCPs at those smaller sites identified more benefits from the SFD intervention relative to HCPs at the larger sites.

This variance, Dr. Tamagawa reports, is likely because smaller, more remote cancer centers have patient navigation as part of their model of care and physicians are treating multiple tumor types. These are likely to contribute to personable patient-provider relationships. The benefits of the SFD was more salient for HCPs taking care of multiple tumor types, suggesting that such intervention is well adopted by physicians who practice as generalist model of care. On the other hand, physicians from larger centers tend to be single-tumor specialists at hospitals that do not employ patient navigation programs—these participants reported lower awareness in person-centeredness in general, and the SFD intervention potentially posed an additional workload.  Prior to adequate SFD training and with less time for patient relationship-building, physicians often lack confidence in their ability to identify and treat patient distress in a timely manner. The study highlighted that SFD intervention can help build this confidence and awareness of person-centered care delivery regardless of the types of care facilities.

In Alberta, Dr. Watson shared, “We have found that utilizing a SFD tool that spans the physical, emotional, social, spiritual, practical, and informational domains has been helpful as it reflects the whole patient experience.  It has been our experience that using a tool that helps the patient to specify their particular area of concern facilitates meaningful interventions.”

“Patient distress has received little attention from clinicians, but can have a large impact on patient quality of life. As such, screening for distress will become increasingly important in clinical practices, so information on its implementation is useful for practitioners,” said Jimmie C. Holland, MD, Wayne R. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Chair of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®) Panel for Distress Management.

Complimentary access to the article is available until December 15, 2016 at


About JNCCN – Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network
More than 24,000 oncologists and other cancer care professionals across the United States read JNCCN–Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. This peer-reviewed, indexed medical journal provides the latest information about best clinical practices, health services research, and translational medicine. JNCCN features updates on the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), review articles elaborating on guidelines recommendations, health services research, and case reports highlighting molecular insights in patient care. JNCCN is published by Harborside Press. Visit To inquire if you are eligible for a FREE subscription to JNCCN, visit


About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®), a not-for-profit alliance of 27 of the world’s leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education, is dedicated to improving the quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of cancer care so that patients can live better lives. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. As the arbiter of high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers.

The NCCN Member Institutions are: Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Omaha, NE; Case Comprehensive Cancer Center/University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland, OH; City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Los Angeles, CA; Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center | Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA; Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, NC; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA; Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle, WA; The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD; Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ, Jacksonville, FL, and Rochester, MN; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL; The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Columbus, OH; Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY; Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN; Stanford Cancer Institute, Stanford, CA; University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birmingham, AL; UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA; UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, CA; University of Colorado Cancer Center, Aurora, CO; University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI; The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX; University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, WI; Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN; and Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital, New Haven, CT.

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IBM Watson, Quest Diagnostics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, MIT, Harvard combine forces for massive oncology, precision medicine initiative (Healthcare IT News)
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How a Cancer Patient Gives Back to Her Doctor (The Wall Street Journal)
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