Nav: Home

Radiation oncologists meet with members of Congress, advocate for cancer research funding

May 25, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 25, 2016 - Radiation oncologists from across the United States convened on Capitol Hill yesterday to encourage members of Congress to invest in cancer research with sustainable and predictable funding and to protect patients' access to high quality cancer care through value-based physician payment models. The 95 doctors were in Washington for approximately 150 meetings with Congressional leaders from their home districts and states as part of the American Society for Radiation Oncology's (ASTRO) 13th annual Advocacy Day.

ASTRO members emphasized four priorities as they met with legislators and Congressional staffers: (1) to invest in cancer research with sustainable and predictable funding; to protect patients' access to quality health care by (2) stabilizing Medicare payments while pursuing innovative models of physician reimbursement and by (3) ending physician self-referral abuse; and (4) to preserve funding and residency slots for graduate medical education.

Driven largely by Vice President Joe Biden's push to accelerate cancer research progress and the launch of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative, research on treatments and cures for cancer has become a national conversation, and ASTRO members encouraged Congress to ensure radiation oncology is part of that discussion. Radiation therapy has been a safe, effective and powerful method of fighting cancer for more than 100 years, yet federal funding for research in radiation oncology remains well below the level of funding for other therapeutic modalities.

The research community is on the cusp of finding better treatment options for cancer patients, such as combination approaches using radiation therapy to jump-start a patient's immune system and enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy. Understanding how and why these combination therapies eliminate cancer cells is critical to matching the right treatments to the right patients, and that understanding necessitates sustained, predictable growth in funding that supports collaboration between the best scientists in far-reaching fields, including radiation therapy.

In addition, ASTRO members advocated for support of ASTRO-developed alternative physician payment policies that improve the value of health care and protect patient's access to high quality cancer care. ASTRO is soliciting public input on an alternative payment model for palliative treatment for bone metastases and will release additional models for public comment.

In the fall of 2015, ASTRO organized a comprehensive response to Medicare payment threats that included obtaining support for radiation oncology against Medicare payment cuts from 207 members of Congress representing both chambers and both major parties. Led by Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), the support letters called particular attention to the burden that community-based clinics would face by losing the payment stability that is essential to ensure accessible, affordable care for their patients.

Thanks in part to radiation oncology's Congressional champions, reimbursement reductions in the final 2016 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) were less severe than originally proposed. Moreover, the Patient Access and Medicare Protection Act (S. 2425) passed in December, freezing payment rates for freestanding radiation oncology centers through 2018 at the levels set under the 2016 MPFS and bringing these centers one step closer to payment stability.

Medicare payment stability allows radiation oncology to transition away from the antiquated "fee-for-service" model toward the promise of alternative payment models (APMs) authorized under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). APMs incentivize physician participation in performance-based payment models and move the reimbursement structure from a system of volume to one of value. ASTRO members emphasized the potential for specialty medical societies to help lawmakers incorporate robust quality improvement programs into APMs and the Merit-based Incentive Program (MIPS) under MACRA.

"ASTRO's advocacy efforts since 2009 have prevented more than $500 million in proposed Medicare payment cuts to radiation oncology, and we've helped pass legislation that brings some much-needed payment stability to doctors across the discipline through 2018" said ASTRO Chair Bruce D. Minsky, MD, FASTRO. "In addition to fighting for fair and stable reimbursement, ASTRO is leading the way to develop alternative payment models for radiation oncology that will support the delivery of high value, high quality care for our patients."

ASTRO also encouraged Congress to protect patients by helping ensure treatment decisions are based on clinical judgment rather than financial gain, through narrowing exceptions in the Ethics in Patient Referrals Act that allow for physician self-referral abuse. Multiple studies, such as 2013 reports published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and in the New England Journal of Medicine, have shown that physician self-referral leads to increased utilization of services that may not be medically necessary and poses a potential risk of harm to patients. The Promoting Integrity in Medicare Act of 2016 (HR 5088) introduced by Reps. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) would close the loophole in current policy that allows for self-referral abuse, help drive payment and delivery system reform and save an estimated $3.3 billion dollars in unnecessary Medicare spending over the next decade.

A final legislative priority for ASTRO is to preserve funding for graduate medical education by supporting the Training Tomorrow's Doctors Today Act (HR 4774). The American Cancer Society estimates that more than a million and half people in the U.S. will be newly diagnosed with cancer this year alone. Coupled with the disproportionate growth projected among the American elderly population, the growing numbers of cancer patients and survivors are creating a steadily increasing demand for medical care - and the physicians to provide that care. An April 2016 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges predicts a shortage 61,700 to 94,700 physicians in the U.S. by 2025. The Training Tomorrow's Doctors Today Act would train an additional 3,000 doctors each year for five years, allowing teaching hospitals to expand their residency programs, while concurrently establishing new accountability criteria for these programs.
-end-
ABOUT ASTRO

ASTRO is the premier radiation oncology society in the world, with more than 10,000 members who are physicians, nurses, biologists, physicists, radiation therapists, dosimetrists and other health care professionals who specialize in treating patients with radiation therapies. As the leading organization in radiation oncology, the Society is dedicated to improving patient care through professional education and training, support for clinical practice and health policy standards, advancement of science and research, and advocacy. ASTRO publishes three medical journals, International Journal of Radiation Oncology * Biology * Physics, Practical Radiation Oncology and Advances in Radiation Oncology; developed and maintains an extensive patient website, RT Answers; and created the Radiation Oncology Institute, a nonprofit foundation to support research and education efforts around the world that enhance and confirm the critical role of radiation therapy in improving cancer treatment. To learn more about ASTRO, visit http://www.astro.org.

American Society for Radiation Oncology

Related Cancer Articles:

Radiotherapy for invasive breast cancer increases the risk of second primary lung cancer
East Asian female breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy have a higher risk of developing second primary lung cancer.
Cancer genomics continued: Triple negative breast cancer and cancer immunotherapy
Continuing PLOS Medicine's special issue on cancer genomics, Christos Hatzis of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., USA and colleagues describe a new subtype of triple negative breast cancer that may be more amenable to treatment than other cases of this difficult-to-treat disease.
Metabolite that promotes cancer cell transformation and colorectal cancer spread identified
Osaka University researchers revealed that the metabolite D-2-hydroxyglurate (D-2HG) promotes epithelial-mesenchymal transition of colorectal cancer cells, leading them to develop features of lower adherence to neighboring cells, increased invasiveness, and greater likelihood of metastatic spread.
UH Cancer Center researcher finds new driver of an aggressive form of brain cancer
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers have identified an essential driver of tumor cell invasion in glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer that can occur at any age.
UH Cancer Center researchers develop algorithm to find precise cancer treatments
University of Hawai'i Cancer Center researchers developed a computational algorithm to analyze 'Big Data' obtained from tumor samples to better understand and treat cancer.
New analytical technology to quantify anti-cancer drugs inside cancer cells
University of Oklahoma researchers will apply a new analytical technology that could ultimately provide a powerful tool for improved treatment of cancer patients in Oklahoma and beyond.
Radiotherapy for lung cancer patients is linked to increased risk of non-cancer deaths
Researchers have found that treating patients who have early stage non-small cell lung cancer with a type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy is associated with a small but increased risk of death from causes other than cancer.
Cancer expert says public health and prevention measures are key to defeating cancer
Is investment in research to develop new treatments the best approach to controlling cancer?
UI Cancer Center, Governors State to address cancer disparities in south suburbs
The University of Illinois Cancer Center and Governors State University have received a joint four-year, $1.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to help both institutions conduct community-based research to reduce cancer-related health disparities in Chicago's south suburbs.
Leading cancer research organizations to host international cancer immunotherapy conference
The Cancer Research Institute, the Association for Cancer Immunotherapy, the European Academy of Tumor Immunology, and the American Association for Cancer Research will join forces to sponsor the first International Cancer Immunotherapy Conference at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel in New York, Sept.

Related Cancer Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Climate Crisis
There's no greater threat to humanity than climate change. What can we do to stop the worst consequences? This hour, TED speakers explore how we can save our planet and whether we can do it in time. Guests include climate activist Greta Thunberg, chemical engineer Jennifer Wilcox, research scientist Sean Davis, food innovator Bruce Friedrich, and psychologist Per Espen Stoknes.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#527 Honey I CRISPR'd the Kids
This week we're coming to you from Awesome Con in Washington, D.C. There, host Bethany Brookshire led a panel of three amazing guests to talk about the promise and perils of CRISPR, and what happens now that CRISPR babies have (maybe?) been born. Featuring science writer Tina Saey, molecular biologist Anne Simon, and bioethicist Alan Regenberg. A Nobel Prize winner argues banning CRISPR babies won’t work Geneticists push for a 5-year global ban on gene-edited babies A CRISPR spin-off causes unintended typos in DNA News of the first gene-edited babies ignited a firestorm The researcher who created CRISPR twins defends...