Healthcare 360: Discussing the Landscape of Cancer Care

March 12, 2024

Podcast: Discussing the Landscape of Cancer Care

On this week’s episode of Healthcare 360, Dr. Rob Fields sits down with Dr. David Avigan, Director of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Cancer Center, Chief of Hematology and Hematological Malignancies, and Senior Vice President of Cancer Services at Beth Israel Lahey Health, to discuss cancer care and how we implement services closer to home.

The Initial Draw to Cancer Care

Going through cancer treatment can feel like an isolating experience, but it’s made more tolerable when patients can rely on a doctor they trust. Avigan is no stranger to working with cancer patients. In fact, the connection he’s able to forge with them is one of his favorite parts of the profession.  

He notes the doctor-patient bond is what first drew him to cancer care, saying, “It's a great privilege to take care of patients through such a difficult journey. At the same time, those relationships become very, I feel, intense and close, and there's really an opportunity to kind of learn from your patients and bond with them in a way that I think is special.”

He’s also interested in the ever-changing science and development of new cancer treatments. Discussing his interest in blood cancer, specifically, he talks about the way bone marrow transplantation can affect and potentially even cure some patients “in ways that our standard drugs or chemotherapies couldn't.” He explains how bone marrow transplantation eventually led to a revolution in cell-based therapies, including CAR-T cells and vaccines, two such treatments that changed the landscape of cancer care.

“That sort of balance between what's so special about the relationship with the patient and the sort of exciting changes in how we treat them was very fulfilling,” he says, “I would say that that nature of going back and forth between the patient experience and understanding ways that we really needed to improve care, that challenge on the scientific side was really something that I found very exciting.”

A Collaborative Effort

Scaling and providing a high level of cancer care in a small, community setting is logistically challenging, but it remains a system priority. Avigan believes that in order to be successful, collaboration is key.

Using the example of a patient with multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer, he explains that standard treatment may be provided at a local community practice, but they may need to visit Boston for a specific type of intervention, such as a bone marrow transplant or CAR-T cell therapy. From there, there’s a collaborative follow up period in which providers discuss patient-specific issues to close any informational gaps. 

“So in some ways, it pulls all of that together in one stream of care and that there's no sense that patients are going to get different care based on their zip code or how they accessed our service.”  

Every other week, we’ll chat with a leading expert in healthcare to learn about the many challenges and opportunities facing the industry. Listen to the full conversation with Avigan here, and check in regularly for new episodes of Healthcare 360.

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