What is “Step Therapy” and Why Should We Care?

What is step therapy and how is it affecting cancer patients?What in the world is “step therapy”? Maybe a new type of fitness routine? Unfortunately, it’s nothing of the kind. And this benign sounding term can sometimes mean bad news for cancer patients and others who need newer, but often more costly, medications that have been prescribed by their doctors.

This February, I joined a group of advocates for meetings at our state legislature here in Virginia. One of the major issues on our agenda was the need for reform of the practice of step therapy, which has increased significantly across the country in recent years with the rising prices of prescription drugs.  Continue reading

A New Year: Where Do We Go From Here?

A new year and improving health careOne of the things I enjoy about the holiday season is that it usually includes some down time to reflect a bit on the past year and opportunities the new year brings.

As we start this new year, I’m looking forward to (hopefully) a wonderful year ahead, but it’s hard not to also recognize that there are many uncertainties at play in the larger world today.

I’ve been thinking lately about some of the lessons I’ve learned going through difficult times in the past. One of those lessons was recognizing that even when our world seems to be veering off course, there are things we can control. And those are the small and large (mostly small) choices we make and actions we take every day that add up to the kind of year we have and the life we live.

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10 Things We Learned About Progress Against Cancer in 2016

A review of cancer research developments in 20162016 was not a year for big breakthroughs in cancer research and improving access to quality care. And yet, it was a year in which many of the issues that need to be addressed if we want to ever see those breakthroughs were front and center.

Those issues include the need for collaborative research and sustained research funding, finding ways to make immune system treatments safer and effective for more patients and addressing the problem of outrageously high drug prices.  Continue reading

Cancer and Health Policy: Some Things I’m Watching

Issues to watch in cancer and health policyThe last month has been full of discussion about where we’re headed as a country following the November 2016 election.

Health care policy is a big part of that discussion. There’s been much opining on what the leadership in Congress will likely be seeking to do. Right now, we are mostly faced with a huge amount of uncertainty.

Discussions of health care issues are often presented in ideological terms. But here’s the thing about cancer: once you’ve had to deal with it, you’re perspective changes. Whether you identify with Republicans, Democrats–or neither–you realize that many of the things that matter most are the same for everyone.

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5 Cancer Research Stories Worth Following – Fall 2016

Cancer research stories worth following for fall 2016 include a possible new addition to the treatment toolkit for advanced ovarian cancer.What’s exciting in cancer research right now? In this post, I’ll review several of the most interesting cancer research stories that have been in the news this fall.

These are a few of the recent stories that seem to have the greatest potential impact, at least from my perspective, and that I know I’ll want to follow as they develop further.

Stories worth following this fall include two studies on financial toxicity and new developments in targeted cancer therapies for ovarian cancer and for metastatic breast cancer.  Continue reading

5 Cancer Research Stories Worth Following – Winter 2016

Recent cancer research stories worth following include a clinical trial of a new targeted treatment for triple negative breast cancer.What’s exciting in cancer research right now? In this post, I’ll review several of the most interesting cancer research stories that have been in the news this winter.

These are a few of the recent stories that seem to have the greatest potential impact, at least from my perspective, and that I know I’ll want to follow as they develop further.

Stories worth following include research on how the high cost of cancer treatment affects patients’ survival, an experimental targeted therapy for triple negative breast cancer and some striking preliminary trial results for a type of immune system therapy. Continue reading

The Value of Patient Navigation for Cancer Patients

Patient navigators guide patients through the complexities of cancer care.A recent article in the Washington Post was headlined “‘Navigators’ for cancer patients: A nice perk or something more?”

A “nice perk”? It certainly seems like anything that would help to lessen the confusion for patients and help them obtain and adhere to treatment would improve outcomes and help keep costs down too. I took a closer look at the article and especially at the main research study it was reporting on.

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10 Things We Learned About Progress Against Cancer in 2014

Progress against cancer is subject of  "2014 Year in Review" on tabletLooking back over 2014, what are the highlights of the year when it comes to major stories about breast cancer and developments in cancer research?

Here are my picks for the top ten stories that taught me something new, or that seemed to me to offer fresh insights or helpful reinforcement on issues that have been around for a while.

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Why Do New Cancer Drugs Cost So Much?

Portrait of an unhappy person sitting on a bench at sunsetCovering the financial costs of care is an increasing problem for cancer patients, and especially for those receiving some of the newer medications which are often extremely highly priced.

More patients are finding that they have to struggle with how they’re going to pay for their medications at the same time as they’re dealing with the physical and emotional challenges of going through treatment. Some are even forced to declare bankruptcy.

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