NCCN 2019 Annual Conference Addresses How to Improve Cancer Care Worldwide Amid Intersecting Public Health Crises

Oncology professionals from all over the world met in Orlando to discuss how to better address the needs of people with cancer. Join the conversation online with the hashtag #NCCNac19

ORLANDO, Fla., April 3, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Nearly 1,500 cancer care professionals participated in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) 2019 Annual Conference in Orlando, Florida, to advance global practices and accelerate collaboration and research. The conference included continuing medical education sessions presenting recent changes to the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines®), and the evidence behind those updates. Faculty from across the 28 leading academic cancer centers that comprise NCCN presented the latest thinking on treatment for breast, prostate, and lung cancers, among numerous other topics. The conference also focused on international themes in cancer care, and had multinational attendees hailing from 24 different countries, including Japan, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, and Brazil.

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Abubakar M. Bello, MD, from the National Hospital Abuja in Nigeria, gave an invited presentation on the NCCN Harmonized Guidelines™ for Sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Bello explained how the average lifespan in many Sub-Saharan nations has increased from 48 to 60 years of age in the past 3 decades thanks to greater control over infectious diseases. But that progress comes with an unintended consequence: skyrocketing cancer rates. Experts predict 1.6 million new cancer cases by the year 2040, with the potential for even higher rates if tobacco companies succeed in gaining footholds in the currently low-smoking region. Additionally, there is very little in the way of health insurance. Most patients pay for medicine out-of-pocket, while 76% of the population lives on less than $1 a day.

In the 12 countries represented by the African Cancer Coalition, doctors and health ministers are taking a proactive approach, improving infrastructure and methodology before the patient load increases any further. According to Dr. Bello, until recently Ethiopia had just three oncologists serving a population of 105 million. Now there are more than 40 oncologists, which has led to marginally increased accessibility to care, but there is still much progress to be made.

"Things in Sub-Saharan Africa are changing rapidly," said Dr. Bello. "Awareness of cancer is rising. We're scaling up our local training programs, and developing evidence-based guidelines that will soon cover 97% of cancer incidence in the area. The harmonization process gets care providers to work together, giving them more clout for negotiations with policy makers, regulators, and payors. Our hope is to be on par with developing nations within the next five years."

"We take advantage of any opportunity to improve the standard of care globally," said Robert W. Carlson, MD, Chief Executive Officer, NCCN. "That means listening to feedback, and adapting the NCCN Guidelines to address unmet needs. It also means providing opportunities for medical education on the research that backs up the recommendations within those guidelines. Cancer management is getting more complex every day, and NCCN is there to help fill any knowledge or experience gaps."

Other sessions from the NCCN 2019 Annual Conference provided training on complicated issues like how to prepare patients and their caregivers for end-of-life care; when to use multi-gene assays and the difference between those that test for prognostic factors (likelihood of recurrence) and predictive factors (effectiveness of treatment); and how to provide compassionate pain management without contributing to the growing crisis of opioid addiction and overdose.

"Simple solutions created a crisis. It will take complex solutions to solve it," said Judith A. Paice, PhD, RN, Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University. "We need better education and access to addiction specialists. Our electronic records systems need to make it easy to do the right thing. And we can't ignore the social determinants that drive drug use. But there is a silver lining; people are starting to recognize that the pendulum may have swung too far in the direction of opioid restriction, leaving many to suffer in severe pain. We need new ways to address the opioid crisis without causing unnecessary suffering for people with chronic or cancer-related pain."

Cancer-related distress was the focus of another session. NCCN Guidelines for Distress Management Panel Chair Michelle B. Riba, MD, MS, University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, explained why it's important to screen patients for distress at least once during treatment, and again during any pivotal times in care. She also pointed out that the screening only matters if you're prepared to follow-through on the results.

A number of sessions also addressed the rising use of personalized medicine, with expanding recommendations around genetic testing for pancreatic, prostate, lung, and other cancers. Multiple experts also mentioned emerging research on next-generation sequencing, which they are watching very closely. A breast cancer session addressed positive results from PARP inhibitors for patients with BRCA 1/2 mutations, and explained which circumstances have sufficient evidence to support further genetic testing.

Recordings from all continuing education-accredited sessions will soon be available via the NCCN CE portal at

The next NCCN Annual Conference will take place on March 20-22, 2020, in Orlando, and will include a look back on NCCN's 25-year history. Visit to stay current on any updates. Also coming up is the next NCCN Policy Summit, "The State of Cancer Care in America: The Impact of State Policy on Access to High-Quality Cancer Care" in Washington D.C. on June 27, 2019, and the next NCCN Annual Congress: Hematologic Malignancies™ in San Francisco on September 27-28, 2019.

Take part in ongoing online discussions from the NCCN 2019 Annual Conference with the hashtag #NCCNac19, and visit for other updates from the event.

About the National Comprehensive Cancer Network
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) is a not-for-profit alliance of 28 leading cancer centers devoted to patient care, research, and education. NCCN is dedicated to improving and facilitating quality, effective, efficient, and accessible cancer care so patients can live better lives. Through the leadership and expertise of clinical professionals at NCCN Member Institutions, NCCN develops resources that present valuable information to the numerous stakeholders in the health care delivery system. By defining and advancing high-quality cancer care, NCCN promotes the importance of continuous quality improvement and recognizes the significance of creating clinical practice guidelines appropriate for use by patients, clinicians, and other health care decision-makers around the world.

The NCCN Member Institutions are: Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA; Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center, Omaha, NE; Case Comprehensive Cancer Center/University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center and Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute, Cleveland, OH; City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA; Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center | Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Boston, MA; Duke Cancer Institute, Durham, NC; Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, PA; Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT; Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center/Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Seattle, WA; The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD; Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, Chicago, IL; Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Phoenix/Scottsdale, AZ, Jacksonville, FL, and Rochester, MN; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY; Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL; The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center - James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, Columbus, OH; Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, NY; Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO; St. Jude Children's Research Hospital/The University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN; Stanford Cancer Institute, Stanford, CA; University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center, Birmingham, AL; UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, La Jolla, CA; UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, San Francisco, CA; University of Colorado Cancer Center, Aurora, CO; University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI; The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX; University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, Madison, WI; Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Nashville, TN; and Yale Cancer Center/Smilow Cancer Hospital, New Haven, CT.

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