The theme for this year’s World Cancer Day is Close the Care Gap. Health equity is a pillar of our work at Imagia Canexia Health. So today our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David Huntsman, is opening the conversation to showcase how our community-centered approach to cancer care is improving access to genomic-driven cancer care for all.
There are myriad reasons why outcomes for patients vary significantly between urban and rural communities (link). A key driver of geographic inequity is hard boiled into current practice models. Current cancer management revolves around substantive physical infrastructure including specialized surgical centers, radiation oncology bunkers, imaging services and clinical laboratories. Not only does distance to these centers create inconveniences for patients, sample testing and distribution, and care teams but as centralized systems, they are inherently vulnerable to delays and cancellations, an issue greatly amplified during the covid-19 pandemic (link).
A decentralized model of cancer care
As cancer treatments, especially targeted therapies and immunotherapy improve there is a huge opportunity to change this model. To bring treatment to the patient. To enable outcomes independent of geography. To paraphrase Siddhartha Mukherjee (link), one of the greatest challenges of 21st-century medicine is to bring our most advanced medical knowledge and technology to every person on the planet, where and when they need it.
For a patient, time and precision are the most valuable assets. Time to diagnosis is critical, as is timely identification of the right treatment and effective monitoring (link). Liquid biopsies (link) and locally performed next-generation sequencing technologies (link) are essential tools to transform many of the steps in this journey, making precision oncology a reality in community-based care.
Locally delivered precision oncology
These two key technologies are transforming the reliance on urban academic centers into a distributed, robust, and flexible care model. For patients and physicians, locally delivered liquid biopsies offer the benefits of precision, speed, and reduced inconvenience. Simple blood draws—rather than invasive, sometimes dangerous, and sometimes impossible physical biopsies—can often identify features of cancer for life-changing treatment decisions, monitoring treatment efficacy. In the future these may replace imaging monitoring for some cancers. As these technologies advance, most common cancers will be amenable to cell-free testing. For patients, physicians, and healthcare systems, evolving our models of care will improve outcomes while concurrently obviating factors that drive geographic inequity.
Guided by this vision, we are working to bring high-value next-generation sequencing tests to more community-based laboratories. Curious about what this could mean for your healthcare system? Talk to us at email@example.com.
About the Author
Dr. David Huntsman, Chief Medical Officer at Imagia Canexia Health, is a professor in the Departments of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of British Columbia.