Importance of Outcomes Research

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Modified: May 18, 1996

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) held an interactive discussion of "outcomes research" -- one of the most timely issues in cancer treatment. This roundtable occurred between an expert panel and oncology specialists at the Annual Meeting.

"In an environment where cancer care accounts for 10% of all medical costs and nearly 25% of all deaths, oncology services are closely scrutinized, and asssessment of the outcomes is integral to measuring their value," noted Jane Weeks, M.D., director, Center for Outcomes and Policy Research, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Harvard Medical School. "We held a lively debate concerning the utility of these outcome "report cards," and how they're regarded from the respective vantage points of patient, physician, and payor."

Entitled "Evaluating the Outcomes of Cancer Treatment: Do the Benefits Justify the Cost?", the discussion was chaired by Dr. Weeks. She was joined by Thomas Smith, M.D., associate professor of medicine and administration at Virginia Commonweatlh University's Medical College of Virginia, and director of cancer education at the Massey Cancer Center; Elizabeth Brown, M.D., director, Technology Asssessment and Clinical Guidelines, Aetna Health Plans; Amy S. Langer, executive director, National Alliance of Breast Cancer Organizations; and Ellen Stovall, executive director, National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship. The discussion format included extensive audience participation.

Issues raised during the panel debate included:

  • The use of outcomes studies, quality of life considerations, and cost effectiveness analyses in making decisions about which new and standard cancer treatments should be paid for.

  • The role of outcomes assessment in evaluating cancer therapies from the perspective of the academic research, the patient advocate, and the health insurer.

For additional information on these issues, readers may wish to conult the Financial Information for Patients section for information on insurance and financial issues related to cancer treatment.