What Caught Our Eye (WCOE), April 27, 2018
What Caught Our Eye is our week-in-review blog series, where we recap the cancer policy articles, studies, and stories that caught our attention.

Affordable Care Act

“The True Cost of Cheap Health Insurance”

Via The AtlanticAny day now, the Trump administration is expected to release new regulations to make short-term health-insurance plans last a lot longer. In a fact sheet about the forthcoming changes, the administration said it wants to extend access to the plans—which now expire after three months, and offer too few services to qualify for the Affordable Care Act’s tax credits—in order to “provide additional, often much more affordable coverage options, while also ensuring consumers understand the coverage they purchase.” According to that release, the policies are beneficial for unemployed people and for those who can’t afford pricey Obamacare plans. But are they?
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“The health care world slams Trump’s proposal for short-term insurance plans”

Via The Washington PostYour monthly premiums could be 20 percent lower if you buy the kind of short-term health plan the Trump administration is seeking to expand. But you won’t necessarily get benefits such as maternity care or prescription drugs.

Yesterday was the deadline to comment on a proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services to let people buy these lean, short-term plans for a full year instead of just three months — and the agency got lots of mail from industry groups and medical associations urging it to modify or change its course.
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Cancer Policy

“Cancer Control in American Indian and Alaska Native Populations: A Conversation with Dr. Shobha Srinivasan”

Via National Cancer Institute (NCI)American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) populations are among the underserved minority groups in the United States and are disproportionately affected by certain cancers. NCI’s Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) supports research to reduce the burden of cancer in these populations, working in collaboration with AI/AN tribes and communities.

In this interview, sociologist Shobha Srinivasan, Ph.D., health disparities research coordinator in DCCPS, discusses some of these disparities and NCI’s efforts to address them. To highlight the cancer control research challenges and opportunities, DCCPS is launching “A Seat at the Table,” a video on cancer control research in AI/AN populations, in recognition of National Minority Health Month and National Cancer Control Month.
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“‘Rapid Autopsy’ Programs Seek Clues To Cancer Within Hours Of Death”

Via Kaiser Health NewsScientists recognize the value of examining tissue from multiple sites soon after death and obtaining larger samples than they could while a patient was living. Cancer cells can be retrieved during such autopsies and kept alive, allowing researchers to experiment with ways to treat — or kill — them.
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“Cancer centers sell out science when they advertise clinical trials as treatment”

Via STAT News OpinionsIn a promotional video, the MD Anderson Cancer Center advertises clinical trials alongside immunotherapy and proton-beam therapy as one of its many ways of “fighting cancer.” Cancer Treatment Centers of America promotes clinical trials as part of its “commitment to bringing our patients new and innovative cancer treatment options.” You may have seen billboards or heard radio spots with similar messages. But what you are actually seeing and hearing in such advertising is a betrayal of ethics and science.

Suggesting that trials give patients ‘an edge’ obscures the fact that most new drugs turn out not to be superior to standard care and, in some cases, are unacceptably toxic.
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Coping with Cancer

“‘Desperation Oncology’: When Patients Are Dying, Some Cancer Doctors Turn to Immunotherapy”

Via New York TimesThe promise of immunotherapy has drawn cancer specialists into a conundrum. When the drugs work, a cancer may seem to melt away overnight. But little is known about which patients might benefit, and from which drugs.
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“Yes, Patients With Cancer Can Live With Metastatic Disease”

Via ASCO Connection BlogI find that the natural history of cancer, and more importantly, the successes we have had (and continue to see) in cancer care are not easily understood. Instead, patients with cancer are treated in ways that still make me cringe—as if every cancer is a death sentence and all patients are terminal, especially if one carries a diagnosis of metastatic disease.
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