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Oncologists hold key to curbing cancer costs
Date:5/26/2011

Richmond, Va. (May 25, 2011) The cost of cancer care is threatening to bankrupt our healthcare system. New drugs are prolonging life, but at staggering costs. This coupled with aging baby boomers and an increasing population mean the U.S. will spend $173 billion annually on cancer care by the year 2020. This trend is not sustainable; however, there are evidence-based ways to maintain or improve the quality of care while saving money for the new therapies being discovered every day.

So argue VCU Massey Cancer Center researchers Thomas Smith, M.D., and Bruce E. Hillner, M.D., in an article in The New England Journal of Medicine, in which they present 10 changes medical oncologists can do to flatten costs, maintain or improve care and save money for future medical advances. Smith is a nationally recognized oncologist and Endowed Chair of Palliative Care Research at VCU Massey Cancer Center, and Hillner is a professor and eminent scholar in the Department of Internal Medicine at the VCU School of Medicine and member scientist at VCU Massey Cancer Center.

In a challenge to their colleagues one week before the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO), the authors suggest changes in the behaviors and attitudes of medical oncologists that could save the nation billions of dollars.

"First, we take curative care and clinical trials off the table. They are vital to advances and save lives," says Smith. "However, we must critically examine our current practices for ways to reduce costs in order to maintain quality cancer care for all of our patients while continuing to advance medicine. This raises difficult issues that impact physician income and requires a new level of open and honest communication between doctors and patients. But the longer we wait to address these issues, the worse it will be for future patients."

The authors focus on the treatment of patients with incurable solid tumors, and many of their r
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Contact: John Wallace
wallacej@vcu.edu
804-628-1550
Virginia Commonwealth University
Source:Eurekalert

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