According to Joseph Alvarnas, MD, vice president of government affairs at City of hope, 55% of cancer patients in California are not receiving care that meets clinical guidelines from Comprehensive National Cancer Control Networks.
Alvarnas said cancer patients in California, with an estimated 176,000 people diagnosed each year, need a bill of rights because of the problems many of them face in seeking treatment.
A bill from Senator Susan Rubio (D) that has been unanimously approved by both houses of the California legislature aims to reduce this disparity by outlining six principles of treatment to which cancer patients in the state are entitled. When approving the legislation last week, the Assembly slightly changed some of its terms, requiring Senate approval before the resolution is officially passed.
The six principles in the current version of the first California Cancer Patient Bill of Rights (subject to Senate amendments approval) are:
“(A) Cancer patients have the right to fully understand their diagnosis and to be informed of treatment options in culturally appropriate and understandable languages.
(b) Cancer patients have the right to transparent and timely processes that ensure access to engage specialists in oncology, diagnostic tests and precise interpretations of these tests.
(c) Cancer patients have the right to contract cancer subspecialists who have expertise in treating their cancer subtypes when complex decisions are required.
(d) Cancer patients have the right to medical treatment for pain management and other services that support their overall health.
(e) Cancer patients have the right to contract Comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute and leading academic medical centers for the management of complex cancers that require multiple experts or high-risk or emerging therapies.
(f) Cancer patients have the right relevant clinical trials, medical research and cutting-edge innovation, including evidence-based precision medicine; and let it be further.
At an Assembly Health Committee meeting last month, Alvarnas – whose organization sponsored CRA 11 – explained why California would benefit from a Cancer Patients Bill of Rights.
“The best chance for a cure is the first chance for a cure, which is why patients deserve information about treatment options and relevant medical research.
Each year, thousands of these cancer patients are either misdiagnosed or subjected to treatment regimens that are inappropriate or ineffective for their condition. “
Cancer patients in California need better access to the ever-changing developments in cancer treatment technology, he said.
“As the science of cancer advances and more effective treatments and cures become available, there is a lag between these advances and patients’ access to good quality health care that can save lives. lives. “
He said limited or delayed access to adequate treatment can lead to serious consequences, such as misdiagnosis and ill-treatment. This can include unnecessary exposure to chemotherapy or preventable death. Members of historically underserved communities are particularly vulnerable to these consequences, he explained.
Improvements in cancer outcomes are often determined by patient participation in cancer trials, but only 8% of cancer patients actually participate in cancer trials, according to Alvarnas. He believes that SCR 11 will promote increased access to such reliable tests.
“A study involving researchers from Columbia University and the American Cancer Society looked at 13 studies involving 9,000 cancer patients and found that more than half of the patients did not have a clinical trial at their available in their establishment. But when available, a majority of cancer patients – 55.1% – have agreed to participate in clinical trials. “
Rubio’s office told State of Reform that, while not frozen, the Senate is likely to approve Assembly amendments on Thursday, paving the way for the formal passage of SCR 11.