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$500,000 Grant Supports Pancreatic Cancer Multidisciplinary Care

Funds from the Canopy Cancer Collective will be used to create a standard of care for all patients.

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Written by Cancer Center on March 17, 2021

A multiyear grant totaling $500,000 is aimed at making the University of Colorado Cancer Center even better at providing multidisciplinary care for patients with pancreatic cancer.

The grant comes from the Canopy Cancer Collective, co-founded by pancreatic cancer survivor Joanie Kriens. Kriens felt a disconnect among patients, providers, and clinical trials during her care, and her foundation looks to improve the situation for other patients.

CU provider_ Tracy Schefter-3 edited

Tracey Schefter, MD

The Canopy Cancer Collective brings multiple institutions together by way of a novel “learning network” to explore ways to improve multidisciplinary care. In addition to the CU Cancer Center, the collective’s inaugural cohort includes the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Mass General Cancer Center, Northwell Health Cancer Institute, and Stanford Medicine Cancer Institute

“It’s a really exciting network of institutions who are passionate about improving care,” says CU Cancer Center member Tracey Schefter, MD, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and physician champion for the grant. “We have patient representation in the learning network as well, and their voice is extremely important.”

Building on our strengths

The CU Cancer Center already offers multidisciplinary clinics that provide an “all in one” package to simplify the process of getting the best treatment plan. Patients are evaluated in one day by specialists who treat their specific cancer, including surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, pathologists, dieticians, genetic counselors, and more. The Canopy grant will be used to improve the CU Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary clinic for pancreatic cancer, and those improvements will be instituted in multidisciplinary clinics for other cancers as well.

“We’ve come a long way, but we still have a way to go,” Schefter says of multidisciplinary care. “We learn so much through this network. We have various institutions working on different projects, but then we all come back to the group and report on our progress. It’s interesting to see that we all struggle with the same issues. It’s really hard to provide the best, most coordinated patient-centric care — there are certain obstacles that get in the way — but if we can make small changes, test those, and then extrapolate to the rest of the network, we’ll continue to improve one step at a time.”

Among those improvements are creating templates so that patient data is captured in a standardized way that’s easier to evaluate and compare; providing all patients access to experts like dieticians and genetic counselors; finding ways to provide ongoing education to patients after their multidisciplinary clinic visit; giving patients more information about how treatment decisions will affect their quality of life; and reducing the amount of time patients wait in a clinic to see their physician.

Creating a new standard

The ultimate goal, Schefter says, is to standardize multidisciplinary care across all cancers and provide community guidelines so patients get that same level of care no matter where they seek treatment.

“Just like when you go to Starbucks and you have your favorite drink, it doesn’t matter if you go to Starbucks in Seattle or in New York City — you should get the same drink,” she says. “In a similar way, we want to say there’s a certain standard all patients deserve and can expect. Whether or not you see a dietician or a genetics counselor shouldn’t depend on whether you go to MD Anderson or CU. There should be a standard. The care you get should not depend on the provider you see. This is the epitome of what improving care is all about.”