The best way to combat heath disparities in cancer care is through patient navigation leading to clinical trials. That's according to Johnson & Johnson’s pharma unit Janssen that is now, to help, giving the American Cancer Society (ACS) $3 million in support of the organization’s Navigating Patients Across the Care and Treatment Continuum program in an effort to expand the patient navigation experience.
The 30-month project run by the ACS supports 20 cancer centers selected by the charity from 200 applicants. The goal is for the centers to learn from the project in order to continue after the sponsorship ends.
“Importantly, what this is not is an indefinite grant or investment,” Arif Kamal, M.D., chief patient officer at the ACS, said. “This is 30 months with the idea being that cancer centers build their own sustainability programs for when the funding is done, We really evaluated applications based on the cancer center's ability to tell us how they would use the time and the resources we provide to marshal the right collaboration.”
Kamal explains that as there isn’t a strong reimbursement pathway for clinical navigation—no Medicare, Medicaid nor most commercial insurance—most cancer centers have to find a way to cover it in their budget. He says there is often a “mismatch between the recognized benefits of navigation and really the sustainability for it to happen.”
It’s important that the ability to provide patient navigation isn’t limited to large cancer centers or academic medical centers, but also community cancer centers, as these are where a more diverse patient group can be found, not only racially and economically, but geographically.
“We want to demonstrate as a collaborative together, is that regardless of who the patient is, and where they live, and the type of cancer they have, that kind of navigation is helpful for them,” he said.
The project will include quarterly learning sessions, where all of the cancer centers will meet with the ACS to share their what they’ve done, how it’s working and what challenges they’ve faced with the goal of improving the outcomes for all those involved in the initiative.
“We know that clinical trials and ensuring diversity in clinical trials and making sure folks from all backgrounds are aware of clinical trials as an option is important,” Lisa Lewis, Janssen’s leader of DE&I in clinical trials in oncology, said. “The added benefit of knowing that our sponsorship is supporting an end to end patient navigation approach at health systems across the country just makes it additionally exciting and rewarding for us.”
In addition to Janssen, which markets a number of cancer drugs, other oncology drug makers offering support include AstraZeneca, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Novocure and Daiichi Sankyo.