Last year, the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) launched the Institute for Clinical Immuno-Oncology (ICLIO) – an initiative to help promote access to new therapies as well as educate and train multidisciplinary cancer care teams to implement immuno-oncology approaches at cancer care centers.
As new immunotherapies receive approval and become available, the need for dissemination of these innovations among cancer patients continues to grow. ICLIO is the only initiative of its kind in the immuno-oncology setting.
In an interview with HemOnc Today, Dr. Jennie R. Crews, MD, FACP, the president of ACCC and medical director of cancer services at PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center in Bellingham, Washington, spoke about the association’s accomplishments in the first year and its expectations for the future.
“We achieved a number of key milestones. We started by conducting focus groups and establishing an advisory committee comprised of 14 members,” Crews said. “The membership is diverse; it includes academic and other physicians from the oncology community, as well as pharmacists, social workers and others. We also conducted surveys within our membership to identify their needs and their level of comfort regarding these new immunotherapies.
“We published a white paper, we have established a roster of scholars who are experts in immunotherapy research, and we have reached over 700 cancer programs,” Crews said. “We have done this in a number of ways. One is through an e-newsletter that has reached more 7,000 readers. We also launched an e-course, a webinar series and a website, which achieved more than 11,000 unique page views. We also organized and successfully launched a national conference last fall. We have had a very busy first year.”
Crews believes that “Some of the most exciting data shows a subset of patients that are experiencing long-term survival and disease control with immunotherapy. There is excitement around the expansion of these agents into additional tumor types and getting more data on their effectiveness. There is also the idea of combination therapy.”
Future perspectives for immuno-oncology are, according to Crews, to think about what an initiative like this can continue to contribute. Plans for ICLIO include ongoing discussions about reimbursement, which she believes might settle after immunotherapies become more widely used; helping members deal with patient integration in the community setting; and how to deal with toxicities. The initiative will also continue to focus on promoting multidisciplinary immuno-oncology teams, and offer preceptorships in the near future — hands-on experiential learning opportunities to help develop delivery models.
Finally, Crews identifies the challenges for immunotherapies to overcome, including the identification of who will benefit the most from these approaches. There are also challenges in knowing how to sequence and combine these immunotherapy agents, as well as manage their toxicities. Crews thinks these are the topics around which research will focus on in the near future.