New treatments providing more choices and better outcomes
Fort Myers, Fla., October 23, 2019 — While there is no cure for metastatic, or stage IV, breast cancer, the rapid release of new therapies means that many more patients are living longer and with better quality of life.
“Three or four years ago there were many fewer options for breast cancer treatment,” said Douglas Braun, CSP, PharmD, RPh, pharmacy manager for AON Pharmacy, the centralized specialty pharmacy operated by American Oncology Network, LLC. “Now there are several new therapy alternatives that are improving patient outcomes,” he said.
Oral oncolytics, in particular, are largely replacing IV chemotherapy for the treatment of metastatic breast cancer and that’s very good news for the estimated 271,270 Americans (268,600 women and 2,670 men) who will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year. While traditional IV chemotherapy attacks the whole body, often causing nausea, hair loss and other side effects, oral therapies travel directly to targeted cells to block cell mutations and prevent the cancer from spreading.
Because these oral drugs are self-administered, a close partnership between patient, oncologist and pharmacist is critical to ensure compliance, help manage any side effects and monitor patient progress.
The AON team of pharmacists, technicians and support staff, based in Fort Myers, Fla., work around-the-clock to ensure quality and safety and effective treatment outcomes for the patients in AON’s growing network of community-based oncology practices across seven states. With ready access to 99 percent of all available oral oncolytics, they can quickly dispense medications and supplies directly to patient homes.
However, their interactions with patients begin well before any pills are taken. “The first telephone conversation begins with education about the therapy, its proper use and potential side effects,” explains Braun. “We then follow up every three weeks to schedule refills, monitor compliance and assess patient response. Because we have access to the patient’s electronic health record, each pharmacist has a complete picture of the patient’s health and how therapies are being tolerated.”
Jeanna L. Knoble, MD, medical oncologist with Zangmeister Cancer Center in Columbus, Ohio, an AON partner, treats all cancer and blood disorders and has a special interest in breast malignancies. “Our breast cancer patients rely on the regular touch-base with their pharmacist to have their questions regarding details of taking their oral therapy answered,” she said. “This partnership improves the level of care we provide by promoting patient adherence, helping monitor for toxicities and need for dose adjustments, and getting patients medication in an efficient, cost-effective manner. As the complexity and number of oral therapies increases, this type of partnership is crucial in oncology.”
Since the FDA approved the first class of targeted oral therapies for breast cancer treatment in 2015, pharmaceutical companies have steadily introduced new oral drugs, giving physicians and patients many more choices. “It’s becoming more like managing a chronic disease in many patients,” Braun says, “in some ways it could be compared to taking a pill for diabetes or high blood pressure, making changes to the prescribed therapy over time based on how well it controls the disease and how well it is tolerated.”
Dr. Knoble agrees and is optimistic about the ongoing focus in oncology research on targeted therapies. “Each patient’s cancer has a unique genetic profile for which certain mutations are seen as targets for future treatment options. We continue to gain greater understanding about the progression of the disease,” she said. “The future is very promising.”
About American Oncology Network, LLC: (AONcology.com)
American Oncology Network, LLC (AON) is an alliance of physicians and seasoned healthcare leaders partnering to ensure the long-term success of community oncology. Launched in 2018, the rapidly growing AON network represents more than 50 physicians and over ten nurse practitioners practicing across seven states. The executive management team of AON brings more than three decades of oncology practice management experience, enabling physicians to focus on what matters most – providing the highest quality care for patients.
The organization provides unique and comprehensive protocols for managing administrative procedures and enhancing ancillary services for its affiliates. AON is able to aggregate volume and attain economies of scale, as it guides its member physicians and practices through the transition to value-based reimbursement models that improve the patient experience and help to reduce the per-capita cost of cancer care.
AON also provides a unique model of physician-led, community-based oncology management. With services such as a centralized specialty pharmacy, diagnostics, pathology, fully integrated electronic medical records, a care management team and a variety of financial assistance programs, an alliance with AON ensures that patients’ experiences will be at the very pinnacle of cancer care today.
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