Study Shows Team Approach Benefits Cancer Patients

CHAPEL HILL, NC - A team of researchers from UNC’s multidisciplinary program in genitourinary cancer has shown that a team treatment approach to cancer diagnosis and planning benefits patients by providing more precise diagnosis and staging as well as more comprehensive treatment recommendations.

In a study published in the journal Urologic Oncology, researchers showed that a multidisciplinary approach changed the initial diagnosis or treatment recommendations in almost 65 percent of cases.  The team reviewed the cases of 269 patients with a diagnosis of urologic cancer who came to UNC’s multidisciplinary genitourinary oncology program for a second opinion or treatment.  Each patient was seen by one or more health care providers in the areas of urology, surgery, radiation oncology or medical oncology with additional consultation by radiation and pathology. Additional consultation was provided by specialists in genetics, social work, pastoral care, clinical research, or other medical specialties as needed.

“Our approach to cancer care has become more comprehensive and complex with new treatments and technologies emerging every day, including robotics, molecular therapies and other new approaches to treatment,” said Raj Pruthi, MD, Director of Urologic Oncology and research team lead.

“This study provides evidence to support what we have all felt is true based on our experience – that bringing the brightest minds from a variety of specialties allows us to derive the best treatment plan that is most effective and appropriate for each individual patient,” he added.

The team found that a change in diagnosis or cancer staging was most common in cases of bladder or kidney cancer. Treatment plan changes were most common in bladder, kidney, testicular and prostate cancer.

Their findings contradict previous studies that found no benefit to the multidisciplinary approach in over 98 percent of patients.

“By contrast, almost two thirds of the patients whose cases we reviewed received some benefit, as measured by a change in initial diagnosis or treatment recommendation,” said Pruthi.

Other members of the UNC research team include Raj Kurpad, MD from the division of urologic surgery and William Kim, MD, W. Kim Rathmell, MD, Paul Godley, MD, PhD, Young Whang, MD,PhD, Julia Fielding, MD, LuAnn Smith, BSN, Ava Pettiford, Heather Schultz, BSN, FNP, Matthew Nielsen, MD, and Eric Wallen, MD – all from UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and UNC’s multidisciplinary program in genitourinary cancer.

For more information about the UNC multidisciplinary program in genitourinary cancer, see http://cancer.unc.edu/patient/programs/urologic.asp.