publication date: Mar. 20, 2020

In Brief

NCCN releases recommendations for standardizing quality measurements in oncology

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has published a curated list of high-impact measures for assessing quality improvements in cancer care.

The recommendations reflect a landscape analysis from leading oncology experts; they evaluate measures that, if implemented, will move the needle on cancer care standards in America, with potential implications for policy and coverage. The article, Quality Measurement in Cancer Care: A Review and Endorsement of High-Impact Measures and Concepts, is available via open access in the March 2020 issue of JNCCN—Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

The NCCN Quality and Outcomes Committee was first founded in 2016 in order to develop quality and outcome measures in oncology that are:

  • more standardized

  • contemporary

  • clinically relevant

  • easily implemented, and

  • broadly applicable.

The committee reviewed 528 existing oncology quality measures and new measure concepts that could be appropriate for development. This list was narrowed down into 22 recommendations—based on importance, supporting evidence, opportunity for improvement, and ease of measurement—including endorsement of 15 existing measures and seven new concepts proposed for development.

“The key question underlining all of our efforts is: how can we use quality measurements to improve the experience and outcomes for people with cancer?” Thomas A. D’Amico, of Duke Cancer Institute, chair of the NCCN Quality and Outcomes Committee, said in a statement. “We paid particular attention to cross-cutting measures that would signify better delivery of care for all different cancer types, while also drilling down into specifics for the highest incidence cancers that affect the most people.”

Full descriptions of the 22 recommendations, including an explanation of how they each represent important diagnostic and treatment decisions across the continuum of care, can be found at


UCLA awarded $2.7 million to study AI role in improving cancer diagnosis

Researchers from the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have received a $2.7 million grant from NCI to develop techniques to improve the quality of prostate magnetic resonance imaging and new artificial intelligence methods that use prostate MRI to assist cancer diagnosis.

The five-year project, led by Kyung Sung, associate professor of radiology, and Holden Wu, associate professor of radiology, bioengineering and biomedical physics, will help radiologists improve their ability to diagnose prostate cancer and help identify and predict the aggressiveness of the disease.

The new techniques will be evaluated in men who undergo prostate MRI and proceed to biopsy or surgery.

Previous studies led by Sung have shown artificial intelligence can perform as well as experienced radiologists in detecting prostate cancer. Improvements to the current system could help not only save time but potentially provide diagnostic guidance to less-experienced radiologists. Sung and Wu have also developed advanced quantitative MRI techniques that will be combined with artificial intelligence to maximize the performance for prostate cancer diagnosis.


FDA requires new health warnings on cigarette packages, ads

FDA has issued a final rule that requires health warnings on cigarette packages and in cigarette advertisements.

The warnings feature text and with photo-realistic color images depicting some of the lesser-known, but serious health risks of cigarette smoking, including impact to fetal growth, cardiac disease, diabetes and more.

“The 11 finalized cigarette health warnings represent the most significant change to cigarette labels in more than 35 years and will considerably increase public awareness of lesser-known, but serious negative health consequences of cigarette smoking,” Mitch Zeller, director of FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products, said in a statement. “Research shows that the current warnings on cigarettes, which have not changed since 1984, have become virtually invisible to both smokers and nonsmokers, in part because of their small size, location and lack of an image. Additionally, research shows substantial gaps remain in the public’s knowledge of the harms of cigarette smoking, and smokers have misinformation about cigarettes and their negative health effects.”

Beginning June 18, 2021,health warnings will be required to appear prominently on cigarette packages and in advertisements, occupying the top 50% of the area of the front and rear panels of cigarette packages and at least 20% of the area at the top of cigarette advertisements. Once implemented, the new warnings must be randomly and equally displayed and distributed on cigarette packages and rotated quarterly in cigarette advertisements.

Also, FDA has issued a guidance to accompany the final rule.

The final cigarette health warnings each consist of one of the following textual warning statements paired with an accompanying photo-realistic image depicting the negative health consequences of smoking:

  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke can harm your children.

  • WARNING: Tobacco smoke causes fatal lung disease in nonsmokers.

  • WARNING: Smoking causes head and neck cancer.

  • WARNING: Smoking causes bladder cancer, which can lead to bloody urine.

  • WARNING: Smoking during pregnancy stunts fetal growth.

  • WARNING: Smoking can cause heart disease and strokes by clogging arteries.

  • WARNING: Smoking causes COPD, a lung disease that can be fatal.

  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow, which can cause erectile dysfunction.

  • WARNING: Smoking reduces blood flow to the limbs, which can require amputation.

  • WARNING: Smoking causes type 2 diabetes, which raises blood sugar.

  • WARNING: Smoking causes cataracts, which can lead to blindness.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.