by Sean Ruck
, Contributing Editor | September 26, 2017
HealthCare Business News recently reached out to ASTRO chair, Dr. David Beyer to discuss his views on radiation oncology and its future.
HCB News: How is multidisciplinary cancer care changing?
Dr. David Beyer:
Professionals are experimenting with new models for multidisciplinary care every day. We have a long history of tumor boards to discuss challenging cases with members of other specialties. Today, we are seeing more integrated clinics where care is shared among several different specialists. We are seeing new therapies, such as radiation treatments being combined with drugs to trigger the immune system. And we are seeing, more and more, the integration of other disciplines to improve patients’ quality of life. As an example, in the small community hospital where I practice, social workers, counselors, physical therapists and palliative care physicians and nurses are now routinely attending our multidisciplinary conferences. This helps us prepare a comprehensive survivorship plan from the first day of treatment.
HCB News: With the patient experience growing in importance, how is it being addressed by the radiation oncology field?
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Quality of life has long been embedded in the fabric of radiation oncology. Along with like-minded surgeons and other oncologists, we helped pioneer organ-preserving therapy in cancers of the breast, larynx and extremity sarcoma, to name a few. Now, research in the field is advancing to the next level, both for extending life and for preserving quality of life, such as the work on stereotactic radiation (SBRT) as a possible curative therapy for inoperable lung cancers.
At the same time, radiation oncology departments, which have been designed over the years to efficiently and safely deliver radiation, are now listening to patients and rethinking how we can improve their satisfaction during treatments that may span several weeks of care.
HCB News: What is the role of radiation oncology in modern cancer care?
Radiation remains a core piece of the triumvirate of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy that has been central to cancer treatment for many years. Some patients are best served by a single modality, while others require combinations or sequences of these therapies. The radiation oncologist is and needs to be involved in this decision-making and remain a resource, even for those patients where radiation treatment is not primarily recommended.