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Bill Carpenter Talks about Cancer Care

The Schroeder Center for Health Policy recently hosted a visit by Bill Carpenter, MHA, Ph.D., who gave a research talk to William & Mary faculty, staff, and students about "Studying Cancer Care to Understand Healthcare More Broadly: Topics in Cancer-focused Research Including Racial Disparities, Comparative Effectiveness Research, Big Data, and a Framework and Model for Research Using Secondary Data." Dr. Carpenter is a Senior Research Investigator in the University of North Carolina (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and an Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health. His research focuses on "racial disparities in cancer prevention, treatment, and outcomes; cancer care quality; innovation diffusion; and geographic variation in cancer care and patient participation in cancer clinical trials."

Dr. Carpenter’s talk began with a discussion of the importance of studying cancer. Dr. Carpenter remarked that cancer is the “fastest growing health problem on earth” with the lifetime risk of developing cancer being one in three. He stated that in the United States alone, about 1.75 million cases are diagnosed each year, and there are 18 million cancer survivors. Approximately $157 billion is spent on cancer care each year, Dr. Carpenter noted, and he thought the reason for this was due, in part, to “skyrocketing drug costs.” He suggested that about 3-5% of people with cancer will go bankrupt. Cancer patients, Dr. Carpenter stated, see a “wide range of specialists,” including surgeons, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, diagnostic radiology technicians, and clinical lab personnel. Cancer patients’ care spans a number of years, and most patients will experience “iterative and cyclical elements of both acute care and chronic care.” Dr. Carpenter also remarked that cancer care spans a continuum from prevention and early detection through diagnosis and treatment follow-up.

Dr. Carpenter then discussed that access to clinical trials, which are typically conducted at academic medical centers, is an important way to ensure high quality cancer treatment. He mentioned that population heterogeneity is very important in clinical trials, as it improves the generalizability of treatments ensuring that these treatments are effective for various populations. He stated that access to clinical trials is an ongoing issue, but he believes that the Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP) has helped to increase cancer patients’ access to clinical trials by involving community physicians.

Cancer is sometimes referred to as the “Emperor of All Maladies,” according to Dr. Carpenter, and he concluded that the lessons learned from cancer care are relevant for all healthcare.