Super Patient: Patient Advocates Help Susan Steel Win Admittance to Clinical Trials


Update:  We are deeply saddened to report that Susan passed away on January 13, 2016. It is a privilege to continue to share her story and keep her memory alive.

When Susan Steel first noticed the mole that derailed her life ten years ago, she was busy raising two children and running two businesses. “I just wasn’t paying attention,” she says. It wasn’t until the mole grew and started to bleed that she finally saw a doctor—and then she was hit with the news that she had melanoma and that it had spread to her lymph nodes.

“My life changed very fast,” Susan recalls. “I was told that my chances were very slim and that I should get my affairs in order.” Continue reading…


Defining the Roles and Responsibilities of Patient Navigators

Patient navigation, which helps patients overcome barriers to accessing care, is growing in importance, particularly in cancer care. Patient navigators, sometimes also called patient advocates, health care advocates or consultants, or medical advocates, aid patients in finding doctors, understanding treatment and care options, dealing with medical paperwork, maneuvering insurance, and more. However, the exact roles and responsibilities of patient navigators remain ill-defined. In a recent article, a committee of cancer care providers, educators, and cancer research centers, led by the George Washington University Cancer Institute, lays down a consensus framework defining the roles and competencies of patient navigators and clarifying their place in the health care system. This framework is intended to help standardize the patient navigator profession.


U.S. Doctors Begin to Question High Cost of Cancer Medicines

Cancer drug prices have risen dramatically since the early 2000s, especially in the U.S. Some doctors are beginning to balk at medications that, in some cases, can cost over $10,000 a month and often offer only marginal improvements in survival. Other drugs do produce dramatic increases in life expectancy, but accumulating expenses force patients to stop treatment. Several aspects of the U.S. drug market contribute to high prices, including long patent durations that shield drug makers from competition, and Medicare’s inability to negotiate better prices with drug makers. Health authorities in several other countries have started to refuse coverage for drugs that, in their estimation, do not offer enough benefit to warrant their high cost. Notably, cancer drug prices in those countries are significantly lower than in the U.S. In 2012, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center became the first major U.S. hospital to refuse offering a cancer drug–zif-aflibercept (Zaltrap)–due to price concerns.


U.S. Doctors Begin to Question High Cost of Cancer Medicines

Cancer drug prices have risen dramatically since the early 2000s, especially in the U.S. Some doctors are beginning to balk at medications that, in some cases, can cost over $10,000 a month and often offer only marginal improvements in survival. Other drugs do produce dramatic increases in life expectancy, but accumulating expenses force patients to stop treatment. Several aspects of the U.S. drug market contribute to high prices, including long patent durations that shield drug makers from competition, and Medicare’s inability to negotiate better prices with drug makers. Health authorities in several other countries have started to refuse coverage for drugs that, in their estimation, do not offer enough benefit to warrant their high cost. Notably, cancer drug prices in those countries are significantly lower than in the U.S. In 2012, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center became the first major U.S. hospital to refuse offering a cancer drug–zif-aflibercept (Zaltrap)–due to price concerns.


U.S. Doctors Begin to Question High Cost of Cancer Medicines

Cancer drug prices have risen dramatically since the early 2000s, especially in the U.S. Some doctors are beginning to balk at medications that, in some cases, can cost over $10,000 a month and often offer only marginal improvements in survival. Other drugs do produce dramatic increases in life expectancy, but accumulating expenses force patients to stop treatment. Several aspects of the U.S. drug market contribute to high prices, including long patent durations that shield drug makers from competition, and Medicare’s inability to negotiate better prices with drug makers. Health authorities in several other countries have started to refuse coverage for drugs that, in their estimation, do not offer enough benefit to warrant their high cost. Notably, cancer drug prices in those countries are significantly lower than in the U.S. In 2012, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center became the first major U.S. hospital to refuse offering a cancer drug–zif-aflibercept (Zaltrap)–due to price concerns.


Cancer Experts Organization Decries Cuts in Biomedical Research Funding

Over 200 medical research advocacy organizations urged the U.S. Congress to invest in biomedical research during the Rally for Medical Research Hill Day. In a statement supporting the event, the president of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) criticized cuts in federal funding for biomedical research. He referenced a recent survey showing that three-quarters of cancer researchers report that the current federal funding situation is negatively impacting their ability to conduct research, more than one-third have had to lay off skilled staff, and many young researchers are choosing to leave the field. These difficulties undermine the promise of recent scientific advances that would otherwise offer the prospect of significant progress against cancer.


U.S. Cancer Experts’ Report Emphasizes Successes, Need for More Funding

The fight against cancer has made “amazing progress,” according to the annual progress report of the American Association for Cancer Research. Thanks to advances in cancer prevention and treatment, death rates from malignant cancers in the U.S. have fallen 24.5% for men and 15.8% for women since 1990, resulting in an estimated 1 million lives saved. However, the aging population will result in a sharp increase in the number of people living with cancer, both in the U.S. and worldwide. The report therefore argues for increased funding for cancer research. A special highlight in the report focuses on cancer immunology, which utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, and which has made significant advances in recent years.


U.S. Cancer Experts’ Report Emphasizes Successes, Need for More Funding

The fight against cancer has made “amazing progress,” according to the annual progress report of the American Association for Cancer Research. Thanks to advances in cancer prevention and treatment, death rates from malignant cancers in the U.S. have fallen 24.5% for men and 15.8% for women since 1990, resulting in an estimated 1 million lives saved. However, the aging population will result in a sharp increase in the number of people living with cancer, both in the U.S. and worldwide. The report therefore argues for increased funding for cancer research. A special highlight in the report focuses on cancer immunology, which utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, and which has made significant advances in recent years.


U.S. Cancer Experts’ Report Emphasizes Successes, Need for More Funding

The fight against cancer has made “amazing progress,” according to the annual progress report of the American Association for Cancer Research. Thanks to advances in cancer prevention and treatment, death rates from malignant cancers in the U.S. have fallen 24.5% for men and 15.8% for women since 1990, resulting in an estimated 1 million lives saved. However, the aging population will result in a sharp increase in the number of people living with cancer, both in the U.S. and worldwide. The report therefore argues for increased funding for cancer research. A special highlight in the report focuses on cancer immunology, which utilizes the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, and which has made significant advances in recent years.