Sep 09, 2022
By Susan P. Sandler, Conquer Cancer
While participating in an Oncology Nursing Society meeting in 2009, Burt Zweigenhaft, PhD, DLitt, was struck by what he heard about the differences between patient-centered as opposed to treatment-centered care and the value of a comprehensive care team leading to better outcomes for patients. An economist and specialty biopharmaceutical executive whose illustrious career included founding the largest oncology specialty pharmacy, Onco360, Dr. Zweigenhaft was well versed in the treatment advances that had revolutionized care. Yet, he knew that focusing on the whole patient to advance quality care improvement was an essential component that would require the collaboration of stakeholders across the continuum of care.
He posited, “Without collaboration, the health care industry will never move forward. Everyone plays a role in delivery of care, and all are interdependent on each other… Collectively in the value chain of cancer, working together and collaboration are hugely important. Why don’t we create a meeting where all the groups can be represented?”
Shortly thereafter, Dr. Zweigenhaft cofounded the Association for Value-Based Cancer Care (AVBCC) on the tenets of convening oncology constituents—physicians, nurses, pharmacists, payers, patients, advocates, and others—to share knowledge and take what they learn to their own organizations to improve quality care. AVBCC’s mission is “to provide a forum for payers, providers, and the entire oncology team to enter into conversations and evaluate value in terms of impact, quality, and cost on patient care and outcomes.” Dr. Zweigenhaft said the rules at AVBCC meetings include, “No complaining—focus on solutions. No reading slides and giving a history lesson; instead, talk about future opportunity.”
AVBCC’s annual invitational forum features 150 speakers for 50 sessions over three days for 700 to 800 invited attendees. “These are people who are in charge of strategic direction at their organizations, they are agents of change,” Dr. Zweigenhaft explained. “This ensures there is good representation across types of organizations and that patients and advocacy groups are represented.” Past evaluations have indicated that nearly 100% of attendees have approved of session topics and believed that the content shared was relevant and up-to-date. The upcoming forum, which will take place on October 19-21, 2022, will focus on health disparities in cancer care. Among this year’s speakers are former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, and ASCO CEO Clifford A. Hudis, MD, FACP, FASCO.
The forum is just one of the ways AVBCC presents up-to-date information to the oncology community. In early March 2020, as he sat in his home office watching the assembly of a hospital tent city in New York City’s Central Park, Dr. Zweigenhaft reached out to key oncology leaders with an offer for AVBCC to host a webcast to share how COVID-19 was impacting cancer care. Within 10 minutes of sending texts and emails, he received favorable replies. “Whatever you need, we’ll help,” was the universal response. Five thousand people attended the first AVBCC COVID-19 webcast on April 3, 2020, discussing how COVID was impacting research, patients, advocacy groups, cancer screenings, and patient care. The webcasts continued throughout the pandemic.
Investing in the Future of Value-Based Care
Recognizing the importance of clinical cancer research, AVBCC committed to support a 2022 Young Investigator Award (YIA). Dr. Zweigenhaft has seen firsthand the impact that early funding has on promising investigators, as he has served for many years on the board of Swim Across America (SAA), which hosts charity swims for clinical cancer research at institutions across the U.S., and has supported two Conquer Cancer YIAs.
“Investigators have to drown out the noise and naysayers,” he said. “The only reason we have innovative drugs today is that the investigators believed and followed their path forward to great discoveries. We want to replicate that and find the next generation of researchers.”
The 2022 Conquer Cancer – Association for Value-Based Cancer Care YIA was awarded to Varun Narendra, MD, PhD, a fellow at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, for his project on TP53 alterations in complex-karyotype acute myeloid leukemia (ckAML). Dr. Narendra was awarded the YIA at the 2022 ASCO Annual Meeting and started his 1-year project on July 1, 2022.
“It’s a tremendous honor and blessing to be granted the YIA award, supported by the AVBCC,” Dr. Narendra said. “The award allows me to explore my passion more fully, which is to make discoveries in the laboratory that translate toward improving the lives of patients with cancer. Moreover, it is inspiring to see that Dr. Zweigenhaft and his team are willing to invest in young physician-scientists, like myself, with a dream.”
Learn more about AVBCC and their upcoming annual invitational forum and see how you can support the next generation of oncology researchers through Conquer Cancer.