publication date: Jun. 12, 2020

In Brief

ACS eliminates 1,000 positions due to fundraising drop

The American Cancer Society is reducing its overall budget by approximately 30%, with cuts to non-personnel and personnel expenses as a result of a decrease in fundraising revenue.

ACS eliminated 1,000 positions across the U.S.

“We are also making a fundamental shift in how we engage and serve communities. Within a very short period of time, we had to reconfigure our entire portfolio to honor donor dollars and continue to advance our mission amid these very difficult times,” ACS officials said in a statement. “We will continue to engage with people where they live their lives, with a greater emphasis on the digital world in which we live.”


ASCO’s CancerLinQ launches SmartLinQ QOPI Certification Pathway

ASCO’s CancerLinQ  launched the SmartLinQ QOPI Certification Pathway, an application that allows oncology practices to automate quality measure tracking and reporting for participation in ASCO’s Quality Oncology Practice Initiative Certification Program, a three-year certification recognizing practices’ commitment to high-quality care for outpatient oncology practices.

Since 2019, SmartLinQ has enabled CancerLinQ practices to automate their quality activities, derive actionable insights from real-world patient data, and benchmark their care against the CancerLinQ network. The new SmartLinQ QOPI Certification Pathway was recently piloted at four of CancerLinQ’s more than 100 subscribing practices, enabling them to reduce staff time and expenses for quality reporting for QOPI Certification. It is now available for re-certification and maintenance submissions for all QOPI Certified CancerLinQ subscribers.

SmartLinQ’s benefits stem from the automation of quality management functions, beginning with data collection. CancerLinQ automatically and securely takes in and harmonizes and codifies the data from practices’ electronic health record systems, eliminating the need for manual chart abstraction for quality programs like QOPI Certification. New Mexico Cancer Center, one of the SmartLinQ QOPI Certification Pathway pilot practices, saved approximately 100 hours of staff time when using SmartLinQ to automate its recertification for the QOPI Certification Program.

Beyond data abstraction and automated quality reporting for QOPI Certification, SmartLinQ enables practices to:

  • Track progress daily against a broad set of quality measures, both for the practice overall and for specific sites and individual physicians

  • Benchmark care against peers, by querying de-identified patient data on 1.5 million real-world cancer patient records in the CancerLinQ database

  • Identify “actionable patients” who still need specific care or treatment to comply with quality standards, creating opportunities to proactively improve care

  • Identify and fix data quality issues, such as missing or inaccurate data in patients’ EHRs.


UCLA Health launches telehealth genitourinary cancer genetics program

UCLA Health and the Department of Urology at UCLA have created a new telehealth cancer genetics program that will provide rapid access to high-quality genetic counseling and testing.

The program, which officially launches June 29, 2020, will focus on diagnosing hereditary kidney, bladder, testicular and prostate cancers. The program hopes to complement and expand on the work providers at the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center have already developed.

There is a national shortage of genetic counselors, potentially impacting clinical outcomes of those who are diagnosed. In partnership with Genome Medical, this service will augment current efforts of UCLA genetic counselors to keep up with the rapid increase in new criteria for genetic testing.


Rogel Cancer Center team gets $2M grant to train researchers in cancer care delivery

University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center researchers received a $2 million grant from NCI to prepare the next generation of scientists focused on cancer care delivery.

This new training program focuses on preparing pre- and postdoctoral trainees from diverse disciplines to become independent investigators researching how cancer care is delivered and how to improve the care experience for patients with cancer.

“Recent advances in cancer therapies may be irrelevant if they cannot be given in a safe, effective, efficient, equitable and patient-centered manner across diverse treatment settings. We need more researchers to help discover care gaps, develop and test efficacious interventions, and implement discoveries into routine clinical practice,” principal investigator Christopher Friese, associate director for cancer control and population sciences at the Rogel Cancer Center and Elizabeth Tone Hosmer Professor of Nursing at the U-M School of Nursing, said in a statement.

The grant will fund a total of three predoctoral and fourteen postdoctoral students. With the support of their mentors, formal coursework, selected emphasis activities and professional socialization, trainees will acquire skills in descriptive discovery research, intervention development and testing, and implementation science to address gaps in the field.

The first predoctoral student and initial four postdoctoral students have been selected and will begin their training July 1.


Zakrzewski, Gyurkocza, Feinman receive MSK/Hackensack Meridian Health funding for immunology research

Memorial Sloan Kettering and Hackensack Meridian Health have formed an Immunology Research Collaboration as part of their partnership. Through this joint initiative, researchers can apply for funding to support immunotherapy research.

The three researchers with projects selected in 2020 for funding support over one to two years are:

  • Johannes Zakrzewski, associate member in the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation, is leading the project “Targeting Auto and Neoantigens with In Vivo-Generated Antigen-Specific T Cells.” Through this project, his lab will investigate novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy and immunosurveillance by employing the capacity of the thymus gland in mice to produce cancer-targeted T-cells, and by harnessing advances in gene therapy and chimeric antigen receptor technology to help lay the groundwork for future cancer immunotherapy treatment options that are safe and durable. This immunotherapy approach could be especially suitable for children and young adults with cancer.

  • Boglarka Gyurkocza, a Memorial Sloan Kettering medical oncologist, is leading the project “Targeting the Gut Microbiome to Improve Outcomes after Allogeneic Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.” This project will explore in an ongoing clinical trial whether certain antibiotics preserve specific anaerobic intestinal microbiota in patients who have received stem cell transplants, and how preserving this gut flora affects the risk of patients developing graft-versus-host disease, a serious complication of stem cell transplant. The trial is currently open at MSK and will also open at the John Theurer Cancer Center. Gyurkocza and colleagues will also examine how the loss of anaerobic gut flora may impact the risk of relapse and progression in multiple myeloma mouse models.

  • Rena Feinman, associate member in the Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation, is leading a project called “Impact of the Gut Microbiome on Immunotherapeutic Response in Multiple Myeloma.” Feinman and the project team will investigate whether distinct gut microbiota can predict the risk for relapse in patients with high-risk multiple myeloma who received the standard of care, including a stem cell transplant from a donor. By analyzing the gut microbiota in patients’ stool before and after transplant, the researchers will also be able to personalize which antibiotics a patient receives. Feinman will also explore the relationship between the gut microbiome and multiple myeloma progression in experimental models.


TGen’s Ashion Analytics certified for NCI’s MATCH cancer clinical trials

Ashion Analytics, a clinical laboratory of the Translational Genomics Research Institute, an affiliate of City of Hope, is now part of NCI’s MATCH program, which provides patients who have rare or difficult-to-treat cancers with access to unique clinical trials nationwide that might give them the best therapeutic treatments and outcomes.

Ashion is one of the nation’s few dozen institutes participating in MATCH—Molecular Analysis for Therapy CHoice.

Ashion screens cancer patients for all of the nearly 3 billion nucleotides, or letters, in human DNA, which includes more than 19,000 genes. Ashion accomplishes this by performing genomic sequencing—a molecular-level analysis of each patient’s entire genome. Ashion scientists then match each patient’s unique cancer to the best available cancer treatments.

Ashion uses a proprietary test called GEM ExTra, which covers all protein coding regions of DNA, and an analysis of all RNA.

Using GEM ExTra, Ashion sequences both the individual patient’s normal genome and the patient’s cancer genome. Then the two sets of genomic data are compared to find the gene changes, known as mutations, that are specific to the tumor and may be potentially driving that patient’s cancer.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.