Bob Young: NCCN is a case study in keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t

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Robert C. Young, MD

President, RCY Medicine, Past chairman of the board, National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Former chancellor and president, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Past chairman of the NCI Board of Scientific Advisors, Past president, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Cancer Society, and the International Gynecologic Cancer Society.

We did something with guidelines that a lot of people have not done. And I personally continue to think that we have the right way to approach it and others feel very much differently.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an organization that promulgates guidelines based on standards of care provided at academic institutions in the U.S., is indisputably one of the pillars of oncology today.

A quarter-century ago, NCCN was a startup dependent on cooperation between 13 elite institutions that were more comfortable competing with each other (The Cancer LetterMarch 15, 1996).

“One of the things that I would always say about the NCCN is that the NCCN has been much more successful than anybody ever imagined when they sat down and started it,” said Robert C. Young, founding vice chairman of the NCCN board and former president of Fox Chase Cancer Center.

“And I think the reason for that is that they’ve been willing to change their focus, and grow with their focus, and change the format and keep what works, and abandon what doesn’t. They’ve been able to evolve and successfully, and the whole basket of things that they do now is very different from what it started as, and many of the things were not envisioned at the time at all.

“And that’s the mark, I think, of a successful organization of any kind.”

Over the next two weeks, Cancer History Project will publish interviews with:

  • William T. McGivney, CEO from 1997 to 2012,
  • Robert W. Carlson, CEO since 2013.

The first story in the four-part series appeared last week (The Cancer LetterMarch 5, 2021).

Young, now a consultant, spoke with Paul Goldberg, editor and publisher of The Cancer Letter.

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