June 29, 2022
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

California Cancer Coalition Praises Assembly Health Committee’s Approval of SB 987, Urges Passage by Appropriations

Today, the California Assembly Health Committee voted to advance the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987). The Cancer Care Is Different coalition issued the following statement: 

”The Cancer Care Is Different Coalition thanks Chairman Jim Wood and members of the Assembly Health Committee for advancing the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987). Current law makes it needlessly difficult for cancer patients from underserved communities to access the latest cancer treatments, clinical trials, and specialized care that could mean the difference between life or death.”

“We look forward to building on this momentum to ensure equitable access to cancer care. We now urge the Assembly Appropriations Committee to pass this bill without delay.”

The California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987) is now before the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration. 

May 25, 2022
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

Cancer Care Is Different Coalition Applauds California Senate on Passage of Landmark Cancer Care Access Legislation

Senate passage of the California Cancer Care Equity Act a key step in expanding access to cancer care

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Cancer Care Is Different (CCID) Coalition today celebrates the unanimous California State Senate passage of the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987), a bill that would expand access to specialized cancer care for Medi-Cal patients diagnosed with complex cancers. The 34 to 0 vote moves the bill on to the Assembly, where it is expected to be heard by the Assembly Health Committee next month.

If passed, the California Cancer Care Equity Act (CCCEA) would help remove barriers that prevent access to leading-edge care for Medi-Cal beneficiaries — a group who represents approximately one-third of California’s population. The legislation is a critical step toward connecting more Californians, particularly those from underserved communities, with optimal cancer treatment and saving more lives. 

“This year, more than 189,000 Californians will hear the terrifying words ‘you have cancer,’” said Harlan Levine, M.D., president of Strategy and Business Ventures at City of Hope. “While innovation has dramatically impacted survival, many patients, particularly those from underserved communities, are unable to access the most highly specialized treatments, clinical trials and care from the subspecialists most likely to help save their lives. This is particularly true for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, and this bill makes a bold statement that we will not leave them behind.” 

Studies have shown that systemic barriers to adequate cancer care result in worse outcomes for underserved minority groups, those lacking private insurance and those with a lower socioeconomic status. For instance, African American men and women have a 111% and 39% higher risk of dying from prostate cancer and breast cancer, respectively, compared with their white counterparts. Hispanic women experience stomach cancer incidence and death rates that are more than twice as high as white women. Despite having the highest rates of Medi-Cal enrollment (44.3% and 44.9% respectively), approximately 30% of African Americans and Hispanics reported the quality of care accessible in their area as a barrier to seeking treatment.

These disparities are in part due to a lack of access to specialized cancer care, such as genomic testing, precision medicine-based care, subspecialty expertise and clinical trials. Patients insured by Medi-Cal who are diagnosed with breast, colon, lung and rectal cancers are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease and have less favorable five-year survival rates than commercially insured patients, according to a study from University of California Davis.

The CCCEA will provide a choice to Medi-Cal cancer patients diagnosed with complex cancers so that they can better understand their diagnosis and receive the care they believe is best for them, regardless of their insurance or zip code. In line with the Biden Administration’s reignition of the Cancer Moonshot, the legislation would help address disparities in access to leading treatments, such as precision medicine and opportunities to participate in clinical trials. 

“The California Cancer Care Equity Act, if passed, will be a major milestone in improving access to care and reducing disparities in cancer outcomes. We’ve seen incredible innovation in cancer treatments over the past decade, and it is vital that we take a close look at how we deliver innovations in care to equitably reach patients,” said the bill’s author, Senator Anthony Portantino (SD-25). “With the Senate passage, we have cleared our first big hurdle in expanding access to leading-edge treatments for Medi-Cal patients, and I am hopeful that the Assembly will now help us to continue this important work.”

The bill now moves to the Assembly, where it is expected to be heard by the Assembly Health Committee chaired by Assembly Member Jim Wood by late June. The CCID Coalition encourages Californians to show their ongoing support for this groundbreaking legislation by reaching out to their legislator through the CCID website.

“We applaud the California Senate for advancing the California Cancer Care Equity Act, a crucial step toward expanding access to care for underserved patients in California,” said Molly Guthrie, vice president of Public Policy & Advocacy for Susan G. Komen. “With more than 31,720 women in California expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone, this legislation would help deliver high-quality treatment and care regardless of their insurance status and can mean the difference between life and death. We urge the Assembly to pass the California Cancer Care Equity Act without delay.” 

“All patients — including those from communities that are historically underserved — deserve to have the choice to receive treatment from cancer subspecialists. Unfortunately, that’s not the case today. The California Cancer Care Equity Act represents a long overdue shift in the approach used to think about and treat cancer patients,” said Thea Zajac, California advocacy director for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “SB 987 will help ensure all Californians with cancer can access the full array of treatments. We look forward to working with assembly members to make this bill law.”

“Cancer is the leading killer for the Hispanic/Latino community in the United States. The California Cancer Care Equity Act would help address systemic barriers that contribute to these worse health outcomes for minorities,” said Ysabel Duron, founder and executive director for the Latino Cancer Institute. “Hispanics have one of the highest rates of enrollment in Medi-Cal, yet Medi-Cal beneficiaries experience worse outcomes for several cancer types compared to patients with commercial insurance. All cancer patients — regardless of race, insurance status or zip code — deserve access to optimal care, and we urge the Assembly to advance this bill immediately.”

The CCID Coalition’s vision is for each Californian diagnosed with cancer to have access to the cancer treatments most appropriate for their individual diagnosis. 

About Cancer Care Is Different
Cancer Care Is Different is a coalition-based campaign effort focused on raising awareness of the need to improve cancer care delivery in California. Partners in this effort include City of Hope, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Susan G. Komen, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match,North Bay Cancer Alliance, Lazarex Cancer Foundation, Triage Cancer, The Latino Cancer Institute and California Black Health Network.

The CCID Coalition’s statement announcing support for the bill can be found here. For more information on CCID, visit CancerCareDiff.org.

May 19, 2022
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

California Cancer Coalition Praises Senate Appropriations Committee’s Approval of SB 987, Urges Passage before Full Senate

On May 19, the California Senate Appropriations Committee voted to advance the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987) to the Senate floor. The Cancer Care IS Different Coalition issued the following statement:

“The Cancer Care Is Different Coalition thanks members of the California Senate Appropriations Committee for advancing the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987), moving us one step closer to making it easier for cancer patients from traditionally underserved communities to access the latest cancer treatments, clinical trials and specialized care that could mean the difference between life or death.

“We are grateful for Chairman Anthony Portantino’s leadership and look forward to building on this momentum to make optimal cancer care a reality for those in need.

“This legislation cannot wait, and we now encourage the full Senate to join the fight against cancer care inequity and pass the bill immediately.”

The California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987) is now before the full Senate for consideration.

April 21, 2022
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

California Cancer Coalition Praises Senate Health Committee’s Vote to Advance SB 987

On April 20, the California Senate Health Committee voted to pass the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987) from the committee. The Cancer Care is Different Coalition issued this statement:

“The Cancer Care is Different Coalition thanks Senator Anthony Portantino and the members of the California Senate Health Committee for their support of the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987), legislation that is critical to increasing access to the latest cancer treatments, clinical trials and specialized care for Californians on Medi-Cal. This legislation is an important first step in tackling the inequitable outcomes the current system has created and helping save more lives. We will continue to work with all of those who support cancer care equity to advance this legislation. We urge speedy consideration and support of SB 987.”

The California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987) is now referred to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

April 5, 2022
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

Cancer Coalition Announces Support for California Bill to Eliminate Cancer Care Inequity

Cancer Care Is Different, which championed passage of California’s Cancer Patients Bill of Rights, enthusiastically endorses SB 987 to help address inequities in access to cancer care. 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Today, the Cancer Care Is Different Coalition announced its support for the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987), which would remove unfair regulatory barriers that disproportionately prevent Californians in underserved communities from accessing optimal cancer care for complex cancer diagnoses. 

The California Cancer Care Equity Act would ensure Medi-Cal beneficiaries who receive a complex cancer diagnosis have the choice to seek treatment at a comprehensive cancer center, increasing the number of Californians able to benefit from emerging therapies, clinical trials and appropriate cancer treatment specialized for particular types of cancer. The complex diagnoses covered include leukemia, multiple myeloma, certain lymphomas, pancreatic cancer, advanced stage lung cancer, advanced stage prostate cancer, advanced stage breast cancer, sarcomas, and liver and biliary cancer.

The bill was introduced by Sen. Anthony Portantino (SD-25) and advances the rights affirmed by the California State Legislature through its unanimous passage of the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights resolution in 2021.

“Sadly, there are serious inequalities in access to care for cancer patients. The impact of these care disparities is greater for patients who are Medi-Cal beneficiaries, especially those who come from underserved communities,” stated Senator Anthony Portantino (SD-25). “Health insurance doesn’t guarantee access to experts specializing in complex cancer types, promising clinical trials, and advances in personalized, precision cancer treatments. With advances in cancer science and more effective treatments, it’s critical that we ensure all cancer patients have access to new science and technology that can improve health outcomes for patients and their families. SB 987 provides a more equitable model of health care for cancer patients.”

This legislation would be an important step in addressing current inequities in cancer care that disproportionately impact Californians in underserved communities. Californians insured with Medi-Cal currently suffer worse than average outcomes for several cancer diagnoses, including lung cancer and breast cancer. By increasing access and helping reduce disparities in cancer care, the legislation supports President Joe Biden’s renewed commitment to the Cancer Moonshot. 

The Cancer Care Is Different Coalition believes that every Californian diagnosed with cancer deserves a chance to access the cancer treatments most appropriate for their diagnosis and most likely to save their life. Members joining in support of SB 987 include City of Hope, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Susan G. Komen, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match, North Bay Cancer Alliance, Lazarex Cancer Foundation and Triage Cancer.  

“Despite the wondrous era of innovation taking place in cancer care, too many patients are being hurt by a system that often results in the wrong care and connects patients to care too late, shortening lives and ultimately increasing costs,” said Robert Stone, President and CEO of City of Hope and the Helen and Morgan Chu Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair. “This legislation would embrace a model for cancer care that enables access to innovation and care, improving outcomes for patients and their families. City of Hope is proud to support the California Cancer Care Equity Act, and we are grateful for Senator Portantino’s leadership on this legislation that is an important step toward democratizing cancer care and saving more lives.”

 “The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network is proud to support the California Cancer Care Equity Act, which would help more Medi-Cal patients with cancer have access to the full range of medical options available for their cancer,” said Autumn J. Ogden-Smith, California legislative director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. “Patients deserve to have the choice to engage with cancer subspecialists to receive clinically appropriate care, including enrolling in clinical trials and innovative therapies without unnecessary and unfair barriers.”

“We are excited to see the introduction of the California Cancer Care Equity Act and see it as an important step in providing equitable care for underserved patients in California,” said Molly Guthrie, vice president of public policy & advocacy for Susan G. Komen. “In 2022, more than 31,720 women in California will be diagnosed with breast cancer, this legislation helps to ensure access to high-quality treatment and care regardless of their insurance status.”

“All patients deserve access to the best treatment — but unfortunately, that’s not the case for Californians today. The California Cancer Care Equity Act represents a long overdue shift in the approach used to think about and treat cancer patients,” said Thea Zajac, California advocacy director for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. “We are proud to support SB 987 as a crucial step to ensuring that all Californians with cancer can access the full array of treatment and clinical trial options for their cancer subtype.”

“The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match welcomes the introduction of SB 987 to benefit the thousands of Californians diagnosed every year with life-threatening blood cancers,” said Amy Ronneberg, CEO of NMDP/Be the Match. “The California Cancer Care Equity Act shares our organizational mission to help every patient receive the lifesaving treatments and care they need.”

“We are excited at the prospect that SB 987 would open access to cancer care and services that so many patients on Medi-Cal haven’t had access to before,” said Kent Corley, executive director of the North Bay Cancer Alliance. “This bill benefits the patients who sadly fall through the cracks — low-income people with cancer and their family, friends and caregivers — who would now be able to get the treatments and expertise they need to satisfactorily move through the cancer journey.”

“The California Cancer Care Equity Act will undoubtedly help bring about a future where every family affected by cancer can feel hopeful and supported by expert care, no matter their stage in life or financial means,” said Dana Dornsife, founder of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation. “SB 987 will help open access to the most advanced treatments for more patients in California.”

“SB 987 embodies the core belief that drives the work of Triage Cancer: Everyone should have access to the resources they need to manage their life beyond diagnosis, regardless of their type of cancer, where they live or their financial situation,” said Joanna Fawzy Morales, Esq., CEO of Triage Cancer. “We are proud to support this bill.”

Background:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists cancer as the second-leading cause of death in California. More than 189,220 Californians are diagnosed with cancer every year, and thousands of them will be misdiagnosed or placed on inappropriate or ineffective treatment

Cancer care is evolving at a pace that has resulted in dramatic changes to the diagnosis and treatment of patients. But delivering the best outcomes for certain complex cancer diagnoses increasingly relies on precision genetic and genomic testing to enable cancer subspecialists to develop personalized courses of care for a patient’s particular subtype of cancer. This may involve enrolling a patient in a clinical trial.

Community practices are a trusted, integral part of our health system in treating cancer and other illnesses. This legislation was created to respect the role of community oncologists and defines a set number of complex cancer diagnoses for which a patient may benefit from the care of a subspecialist.  

The sheer volume of new discoveries and the pace at which they emerge mean that it will require every part of the health care system to work together to give patients the best shot at survival and care.  

The health care system has not evolved as quickly as the science has. The way payment, reimbursement and even value-based models are designed in oncology typically follows designs used to support affordability for chronic conditions and primary care. But for patients with life-threatening diseases like cancer, the best chance at a cure is often the first chance. Patients and their families can’t afford to wait for initial therapies to fail before seeking care from subspecialists. Cancer care is different, and the way it is paid for must be different.

Currently, there are significant disparities in access to genomic testing, precision medicine-based care, subspecialty expertise and clinical trials that result in inferior survival outcomes for those patients who cannot access this care with the necessary urgency. Patients receiving care from designated specialists saw a 53% reduction in the odds of early mortality, but less than half of California cancer patients received care aligned with national guidelines between 2004 and 2016. Only about 8% of eligible cancer patients nationally enroll in clinical trials.

Survival outcomes only get worse for those who are from underserved communities, are not commercially insured or are people of color. The disproportionately worse survival outcomes for those in underserved communities are in part due to disparities in cancer care, particularly delays in diagnostics and treatment. Patients with Medi-Cal having breast, colon, lung and rectal cancer are more likely to be diagnosed at an advanced stage of disease and have less favorable five-year survival rates. Thirty percent of Californians are covered by Medi-Cal or the related CHIP program, and 90% of Medi-Cal patients received care through health plans that use a managed care model. 

The current one-size-fits-most system prevents too many California cancer patients from accessing optimal care, and too many Californians realize that health insurance does necessarily add up to access to the care they need.

To address this, the California Cancer Care Equity Act (SB 987) ensures Medi-Cal managed care plans and their delegated entities make available to enrollees the services of a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center by expanding the existing set of care diagnoses for which such enhanced access is provided. This parallels the current Medi-Cal coverage model that allows Medi-Cal beneficiaries to have access to certain lifesaving care services at a Center of Excellence, even if that center is not included in the member’s provider network. The NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center providing services would be reimbursed by the beneficiary’s Medi-Cal managed care plan equal to what would be paid for those services in the Medi-Cal fee-for-service delivery system

The bill would also require Medi-Cal managed care providers to inform enrollees of their eligibility to receive enhanced care and ensures primary care doctors in contract with those managed care providers inform enrollees with any information they need to decide between relevant treatment options. The bill also requires that decisions to approve, deny or modify a patient’s request for optimal care are made within a 72-hour time window to shorten the window between diagnosis and treatment.  

About Cancer Care Is Different
Cancer Care Is Different is a coalition-based campaign effort focused on raising awareness of the need to improve cancer care delivery in California. Partners in this effort include City of Hope, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, Susan G. Komen, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, The National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match, North Bay Cancer Alliance, Lazarex Cancer Foundation and Triage Cancer

August 19, 2021
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

Leading Cancer Coalition Praises Passage of First-in-the-Nation California Cancer Patients Bill of Rights

California Legislature passes Cancer Patients Bill of Rights establishing six rights for cancer patients to ensure access to the care they need

Join Cancer Care is Different for a virtual event Friday, August 20, at 9:30 AM PT with remarks from Sen. Susan Rubio (D-District 22), Assemblymember Mike Gipson (D-District 64), City of Hope CEO Robert Stone, cancer survivor Kommah McDowell, Elizabeth Helms, President and CEO of the California Chronic Care Coalition, and Autumn Ogden-Smith from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. Event details here.

DUARTE, Calif.Cancer Care Is Different, a coalition-based campaign effort to improve patient access to advanced cancer care in California, applauds the state Assembly’s unanimous passage of the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights (Senate Concurrent Resolution 11) today, joining the state Senate in adopting this resolution. The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights, which is the first of its kind in the nation, calls for six rights that every cancer patient in California should have from the moment of diagnosis to ensure they have access to the care that they need. 

The CDC lists cancer as the second-leading cause of death in California. Thanks to extraordinary medical breakthroughs, a cancer diagnosis is no longer a death sentence for many patients. But too many Californians cannot benefit from these lifesaving treatments due to one-size-fits-all policies that prevent access to the cancer care they deserve. Cancer patients in California should not be divided between the “haves” and “have nots” based on the type of health insurance they have: Every patient should have access to the appropriate treatment and care their diagnosis calls for in order to save lives and deliver the best possible health outcomes for cancer patients. 

Ensuring access to promising new innovations, experts specializing in various cancer types, and advances in personalized, precision cancer treatments are all critical components in improving outcomes and saving lives. The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights outlines six key principles, proclaiming that cancer patients have a right to:

  • Understand fully their diagnoses and be informed about treatment options in culturally appropriate and understandable languages;
  • Transparent and timely processes that ensure access to contracting oncology specialists, diagnostic testing, and accurate interpretations of those tests;
  • Contracting cancer subspecialists who have expertise in the treatment of their subtypes of cancers when complex decisions are needed;
  • Medical treatments for pain management and other services that support their overall health;
  • Contracting National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers and leading academic medical centers for the management of complex cancers that require multiple experts or high-risk or emerging therapies; and
  • Relevant clinical trials, medical research, and cutting-edge innovation, including evidence-supported precision medicine.

Sen. Susan Rubio (D-District 22) authored the California Cancer Patients Bill of Rights and championed the resolution. 

“Cancer patients need appropriate, timely, and equitable access to expert care,” Senator Susan Rubio said. “That’s why it was important for the Legislature to vote for and pass the California Cancer Patients Bill of Rights. There have been remarkable advances in science creating more effective treatments and cures, and it’s unconscionable that people, particularly those most vulnerable and in disadvantaged communities, suffer from a lack of access to these saving medications. I am proud to be part of the work needed to address these barriers to access and help build a healthier California.”    

Leaders of the Cancer Care Is Different initiative celebrate this important milestone in advancing patient access to lifesaving cancer care:

City of Hope

“We applaud the adoption of this Bill of Rights resolution as a first step toward addressing the gaps in access to specialty care that affect the more than 187,000 Californians diagnosed with cancer every year, particularly among underserved communities. City of Hope is proud to have driven this effort to build support for the rights of cancer patients and is grateful that the California State Legislature recognizes a fundamental fact: Because cancer care is different, cancer patients deserve these rights. We thank Senator Susan Rubio, Assembly Member Jim Wood and all the California legislators who championed the resolution.”

-Robert Stone, City of Hope President and CEO

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

“The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights stands as a bold statement of what every patient with cancer deserves – a full understanding of treatment options in culturally appropriate and understandable language, timely access to cancer subspecialists, and access to clinical trials and innovative treatments. We appreciate the California State Legislature for supporting cancer patients throughout the state.”

-Autumn J. Ogden-Smith, ACS CAN California State Legislative Director

California Chronic Care Coalition

“The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights raises critical awareness about the adverse patient impact caused by restricted access to specialized care and innovative treatments. On behalf of our alliance of consumers and providers, we commend our California policymakers for taking this important stand for cancer patients and doing what is right.”

-Elizabeth Helms, President and CEO of the California Chronic Care Coalition

International Myeloma Foundation

“We are thrilled that patients with myeloma across California will benefit from the state’s renewed commitment to accessible cancer care. The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights acknowledges the complexities and constantly evolving standard of cancer care for patients with cancers like myeloma, and we look forward to continuing to work to ensure patients have access to treatments that deliver the best outcomes.”

Robin Levy, IMF Senior Director, Public Policy & Advocacy

Coalition members are not alone in their support for greater access. According to a September 2020 survey conducted by Public Policy Polling, 82% of Californians believe it is very important for people with cancer to have access to specialized expertise or treatment regardless of their insurance plan limitations.

Additionally, several other community stakeholders across California have voiced support for the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights:

Glendale Chamber of Commerce

“The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights is an important step in bridging the gaps among our residents who are seeking high quality cancer care. We applaud the passage by both chambers of the State Legislature.”

-Judee Kendall, President-CEO

San Gabriel Valley Civic Alliance

“The Alliance thanks the California State Legislature for helping ensure access to cutting-edge treatments and clinical trials for at-risk citizens in San Gabriel Valley and throughout California.”

-Edward J. Rendon, Executive Director

Monrovia Chamber of Commerce

“The Monrovia Chamber of Commerce is proud to see SCR 11 passed by the Assembly as a commitment to ensure equitable, accessible cancer care for all. Remarkable advances in cancer science will continue to radically improve the lives of Californians, and this Bill of Rights will ensure patients can access these innovations.”

-Sari Canales, Executive Director

Cancer Care is Different would like to express gratitude to California Life Sciences, Cedars-Sinai and the Medical Oncology Association of Southern California, Inc., for supporting the passage of SCR 11. Cancer Care is Different stands ready to work with stakeholders to improve access and care delivery for all Californians with cancer. More information about the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights along with other resources and patient stories can be found at cancercarediff.org.

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About Cancer Care Is Different

Cancer Care Is Different is a coalition-based campaign effort with the goal of adopting a cancer patients bill of rights and raising awareness of the need to improve cancer care delivery in California. Partners in this effort include City of Hope, California Chronic Care Coalition, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and International Myeloma Foundation.

February 4, 2021
Contact
Letisia Marquez
(626) 476-7593
lemarquez@coh.org

New coalition launches bid for Cancer Patients Bill of Rights and multiyear Cancer Care Is Different platform

Introduced today in the state Senate, legislation details six rights for every cancer patient in California

Initiated by City of Hope, partners include American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, California Chronic Care Coalition and International Myeloma Foundation

DUARTE, Calif. – Today, as communities and organizations across the globe commemorate World Cancer Day, a coalition of organizations are announcing a new campaign called Cancer Care Is Different, spearheaded by City of Hope, a world-renowned National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, California Chronic Care Coalition and International Myeloma Foundation. The campaign’s goal is to raise awareness about the adverse impact for patients that restricted access to leading cancer treatment centers, where the most advanced, life-saving therapeutics are available, causes, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, and to urge passage and adoption of a Cancer Patients Bill of Rights in the California Legislature.

The resolution, Senate Concurrent Resolution 11 (SCR 11), is authored by state Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) and was introduced in the state Senate today. 

“For many cancer patients, the best chance of being cured is the early chance at a cure,” Rubio said. “Despite remarkable advances in cancer science creating more effective treatments and cures, too many cancer patients continue to suffer from a lack of access to specialty care. That lack of access is unfortunately even more pronounced among our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. The Cancer Patients Bill of Rights recognizes that cancer patients should receive appropriate, timely and equitable access to expert cancer care.”

“With our valued partners, City of Hope is proud to drive this effort to increase cancer patients’ access to the proper expertise and to make them aware of their rights to appropriate treatment options,” said Joseph Alvarnas, M.D., a hematologist-oncologist at City of Hope. “These needs are heightened by the reality that cancer is a complex and rapidly evolving field that requires ongoing access to the most recent knowledge, therapeutics and technology. The consequences of limited or delayed access to this expertise, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, are significant and can lead to misdiagnoses that can often mean unnecessary exposure to toxic chemotherapy agents, suffering or avoidable death.” Alvarnas serves as vice president of government affairs and senior medical director for employer strategy at City of Hope.

More than 187,000 Californians are diagnosed with cancer annually and thousands of these new cancer patients are misdiagnosed or placed on treatment regimens that are inappropriate or ineffective for their condition.

Cancer Patients Bill of Rights includes:

  • Cancer patients have a right to fully understand their diagnosis and be informed about treatment options in culturally appropriate and understandable language. 
  • Cancer patients have a right to a transparent and timely process that ensures direct access to an oncology specialist, diagnostic testing and accurate interpretations of those tests.
  • Cancer patients have a right to timely access to cancer subspecialists who have expertise in the treatment of their subtypes of cancers when complex decisions are needed. 
  • Cancer patients have a right to direct and prompt access to medical treatments for pain management and other services that support their overall health.
  • Cancer patients have a right to direct access to a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and leading academic medical centers for the management of complex cancers that require multiple experts or high risk or emerging therapies.

City of Hope breast cancer survivor Kommah McDowell hailed the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights. McDowell went to City of Hope for a second opinion and treatment after her primary care doctor told her she was too young to have breast cancer despite a painful mass in her right breast. City of Hope breast cancer specialists diagnosed McDowell with two particularly rare and aggressive forms of breast cancer and successfully treated her with chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.

“All Californians should have access to doctors that specialize in their particular cancer and diagnostic testing from the moment they suspect they might have cancer,” McDowell said. “Fighting for that right is what saved my life and I want other patients to be afforded those rights from the start — it will not only make a difference in their lives but could help save them as well.” 

More about the proposed bill of rights, along with other resources and patient stories, can be found at the Cancer Care Is Different website unveiled today. Visit cancercarediff.org.

About Cancer Care Is Different

Cancer Care Is Different is a coalition-based campaign effort with the goal of adopting a cancer patients’ bill of rights and raising awareness of the need to improve cancer care delivery in California. Partners in this effort include City of Hope, California Chronic Care Coalition, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and International Myeloma Foundation.

About City of Hope

City of Hope is an independent biomedical research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a leader in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy such as CAR T cell therapy. City of Hope’s translational research and personalized treatment protocols advance care throughout the world. Human synthetic insulin, monoclonal antibodies and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs are based on technology developed at the institution.  AccessHopeTM, a wholly owned subsidiary, was launched in 2019 and is dedicated to serving employers and their health care partners by providing access to City of Hope’s exceptional cancer expertise. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is ranked among the nation’s “Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Its main campus is located near Los Angeles, with additional locations throughout Southern California and in Arizona. For more information about City of Hope, follow us on FacebookTwitterYouTube or Instagram.

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