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Addressing Racial Disparities in Health Care

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Blood Cancer Patients Face More Severe Illness and Death from COVID-19

Having cancer increases the risk of severe illness from COVID-19. The immune system, already compromised by cancer and its therapies, can't respond as effectively as it could in a healthy patient. The risk of worse outcomes is particularly high for patients with blood cancers. "When they get COVID-19, they tend to get more severe illness and to die more frequently," Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, chief of the Division of Hematology at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, who was formerly with the Cleveland Clinic, tells SurvivorNet Connect.

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Oral Azacitidine May Increase Survival in Older Patients with AML

Maintenance therapy with the oral version of azacitidine (brand name: ONUREG) significantly improves disease-free survival in older adults with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) who have achieved complete remission on intensive chemotherapy, according to research published in the journal Blood. This is the first time a maintenance therapy has shown a survival advantage in older adults, who make up the vast majority of AML patients.

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Managing a Patient with AML Who Also Has COVID-19, According to Dr. Mikkael Sekeres

Prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is not markedly different for patients with cancers of the blood and bone marrow than it is for anyone else, according to the University of Miami's Dr. Mikkael Sekeres, who formally practiced at the Cleveland Clinic. “When I have a patient who has a hematologic malignancy who also has a COVID-19 infection, I take it seriously. . . just as I would anybody who has a COVID-19 infection,” he tells SurvivorNet Connect.

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COVID-19 Energized the HCP Community in the Early Days

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of HCP burnout had reached epidemic proportions. "Health care has been suffering from burnout for many, many years. All of the regulatory challenges, all of the insurance and administrative challenges that face health care has really sapped the joy for many providers," Dr. Ted Teknos, a head and neck cancer surgeon at University Hospitals in Cleveland, tells SurvivorNet Connect. According to Dr. Teknos, there was a silver lining when the pandemic first began as many health care workers felt reenergized with a purpose.

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Concrete Steps for Addressing Racial Disparities in Your Practice

Both anecdotal evidence and multiple studies have documented disturbing disparities in cancer care, morbidity, and mortality among various populations. “We’ve known that cancer disparities have existed for decades,” Dr. Karen Winkfield, radiation oncologist at Vanderbilt University, tells SurvivorNet Connect. She explains that CDC graphs and charts as far back as the 1970s show Blacks dying from cancers at a much higher rate than other racial or ethnic groups. “Black men, for example, are dying of prostate cancer at about twice the rate of white men,” she says.

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Predicting Response to BCMA Therapies to Fine-Tune Multiple Myeloma Treatment

Despite great progress in multiple myeloma treatment, most patients will inevitably relapse. New targeted therapies are needed, especially in high-risk relapsed/refractory multiple myeloma. B-cell maturation antigen (BCMA) is one such promising target, but we need to improve our ability to understand the makeup of myeloma at baseline, as well as the immune microenvironment, to predict which BCMA-focused therapies would provide the greatest benefit for each patient.

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Should CAR T-Cell Therapy be the Standard Third Line Treatment for Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma?

“If you don’t think of CAR T-cell therapy as a third line of therapy, you’re malpracticing,” Dr. Stephen Schuster, Penn Medicine hematologist/oncologist, tells SurvivorNet Connect. His concern is that, “It’s not yet gelled in the mind of all practicing oncologists that this is a reality for their patients.” Dr. Schuster is eager to raise awareness of CAR T-cell therapy because its success as third line therapy depends in large part on earlier therapeutic choices.

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Metastatic Lung Cancer — Deciding on Next Steps

Biomarker testing can guide you to the initial targeted treatment for patients with metastatic lung cancer, but what happens when that first-line treatment stops holding the cancer at bay? Dr. Patrick Forde, thoracic oncologist at Johns Hopkins, suggests retesting to find a new therapeutic target.

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