N.C. Medical Journal July/August issue highlights UNC Lineberger cancer research

Cancer care in North Carolina is the focus of the July/August issue of the North Carolina Medical Journal (NCMJ). The issue, co-guest-edited by UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center members Ethan Basch, MD, and Stephanie Wheeler, PhD, MPH, features articles on a wide variety of issues that determine how the state’s residents receive treatment for cancer.

The issue features articles from several UNC Lineberger members, including: Stacie Dusetzina, PhD, on the increasing cost of cancer drugs; Jennifer Leeman, DrPH, MDiv, on translating research evidence into implementation; Donald Rosenstein, MD, on survivorship support; Tzy-Mey (May) Kuo, MPH, PhD, and Dr. Wheeler on distance to breast cancer care providers; and Dr. Wheeler on primary care medical homes and adverse events associated with cancer-related treatment. Katie Reeder-Hayes, MD, MBA, also contributed to several articles in the issue.

“I think it is very important that the broader community outside of UNC, including NCMJ readership and policymakers, is aware of the high quality research that is being done at UNC and other institutions in our state,” said Dr. Wheeler.

One major focus of the issue is the population-level research being conducted at UNC Lineberger. Anne-Marie Meyer, PhD, of the UNC Lineberger Cancer Outcomes Research Program, contributed to three articles that spotlight how data can shape researchers’ understanding of the ways that North Carolina residents experience cancer care. The resource that makes this work possible is UNC Lineberger’s Integrated Cancer Information and Surveillance System (ICISS), a comprehensive database and analytic resource that includes information from approximately 85 percent of North Carolina cancer cases.

“North Carolina is very unique in the existence of ICISS, a resource that links Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance claims and the cancer registry. North Carolina is ahead of every other state in terms of the methods that it has employed and the technology that it has developed,” said Dr. Basch.

The focus on population science highlights how this research can reveal truths about the ways patients in the state receive care for their cancer and contribute to improving that care, according to Dr. Wheeler. By better understanding the regional and social factors that influence when and how a patient receives care, physicians and policymakers can determine how best to improve the quality of care received by all residents of the state.

“There are clearly worse cancer outcomes in certain parts of the state and in certain populations. Particularly in Eastern North Carolina, cancer outcomes are worse. This speaks to related state level policy considerations to try to improve care by trying to understand the underlying reasons for these disparities,” said Dr. Basch.

The other major theme of the issue is the importance of the support from the university and the state government through mechanisms like the University Cancer Research Fund (UCRF) in providing the resources necessary to understand and improve cancer care for North Carolina’s residents, according to Dr. Basch and Wheeler. Much of the research featured in the issue was made possible through funding from the UCRF.

"The support for cancer research in the state of North Carolina from the UCRF has enabled the state to be a leader in multiple areas and develop programs that will improve the health of the people in the state,” said Dr. Wheeler.

The NCMJ is a peer-reviewed journal published six times a year by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and The Duke Endowment. The journal is supported by The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence, the North Carolina Dental Society, the North Carolina Health Care Facilities Association, and the North Carolina Medical Society.