Cancer Patients & the COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique and unprecedented challenges for everyone. For cancer patients who are immunocompromised, the risk and impact of the coronavirus is far greater.  

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to individuals 16 and olderprotecting ourselves, loved ones and our community is easier than ever. According to the American Cancer Society, many medical experts recommend that most patients with cancer or a history of cancer should get a COVID-19 vaccine.  

You may be wondering which COVID-19 vaccine is right for youAll three vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson – have been proven effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its variants. At this time, many health experts are recommending that you get whichever one is available to you to protect against serious illness, hospitalization, or even death. 

The CDC recommends continuing to take preventative measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet of distance even after being fully vaccinatedThe list of safe activities once fully vaccinated include being able safely visit indoors or a private setting with other fully vaccinated individuals, however this may vary for cancer patients. 

It is important to remember that every individual’s health situation is unique. When considering getting the COVID-19 Vaccine, it is recommended to discuss your options with your primary care physician and oncologist to assess the best plan of action.

 

Get more in-depth information about getting vaccinated 

 

Wellness Practices For Your Cancer Journey

The reality of a cancer diagnosis can be difficult for both patients and their families. When taking a look at maintaining wellness as a whole, we must consider not just the physical, but our mental and emotional health as well. For this reason, some patients may consider integrating natural methods of wellness in addition to cancer therapy that can help make the cancer journey more manageable.

A few examples of wellness practices include:

  • Meditation: This practice combines mindfulness, deep breathing and focus to achieve a state of stability and calmness. There are several apps that can be downloaded on your smart phone for a guided experience, including Calm and Headspace.
  • Music Therapy: Research1 has shown that music can help alleviate pain, manage stress, promote physical rehabilitation and more. Now days, music is readily accessible almost anywhere thanks to smartphones and music apps.
  • Art Therapy: Art is a powerful form of expression that allows individuals creative freedom to help foster healing and explore emotions. Drawing, painting and photography are only a few examples of art forms that we can try!
  • Massage Therapy: This form of treatment uses rubbing and pressure techniques on the muscles and body to promote physical pain as well as stress relief.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a mind and body practice that integrates physical movement, breathing techniques and meditation that encourages the embodiment of relaxation.

Navigating a cancer journey is no easy feat. Each individual patient will live their own unique experience. With the help of your oncologist and health team, the path to healing can be taken one step at a time.

The Oncology Institute recommends patients consult their primary care physician prior to engaging in any new physical activities.

For more information on ‘Complementary and Alternative Methods and Cancer’, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.

 

References

1 Stanczyk, Malgorzata Monika. “Music therapy in supportive cancer care.” Reports of practical oncology and radiotherapy: journal of Greatpoland Cancer Center in Poznan and Polish Society of Radiation Oncology vol. 16,5 170-2. 8 Jun. 2011, doi:10.1016/j.rpor.2011.04.005.

Celebrating National Doctors’ Day

March 30th is celebrated annually as National Doctors’ Day in the U.S.!

The annual observance, which began in 1933, is aimed at recognizing hard-working physicians who help save and make a true difference in the lives of patients everywhere. Today, we continue to celebrate medical advancements and doctors who’ve given back to their community through their knowledge, expertise and compassion

In honor of National Doctors’ Day, we invite you to submit a virtual heartfelt note below to let your oncologist know how much you appreciate their hard work! Your thoughtful words of gratitude will be sure to put a smile on their face. To view a complete list of our oncologists and get started with care, click here.

Dr. Daniel Huang Receives 2021 Top Doctor Award

We are proud to announce The Oncology Institute’s Medical Director, Daniel Huang, MD, was named 2021 Top Doctor!

Each year, the Orange County Medical Association recognizes the most accomplished and caring physicians that serve the Orange County area. The 2021 cohort recognized a total of 669 O.C. physicians that provide outstanding and compassionate care. The physicians recognized for this award were featured in Orange Coast Magazine’s Top Doctors Issue for 2021.

Dr. Huang was recognized for his excellence in Hematology/Oncology. So many patients and their families lives have been positively impacted thanks to the level of dedication and care that he provides day-to-day. Congratulations on this well-deserved accolade!

To get started with treatment with Dr. Huang, click here.


About Dr. Huang

Born and raised on the East Coast, Dr. Daniel Huang earned his B.S. in biology from Cornell University and his MD from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and his fellowship in hematology and oncology at UCLA-Olive View Medical Center. During his training, Dr. Huang was active in research at the Louis Warschaw Prostate Cancer Center and UCLA-Olive View Medical Center, studying the links between obesity and outcomes in patients with prostate cancer and breast cancer.

Prior to joining The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation, Dr. Huang spent two years in private practice in Newport Beach, California. Through his training and private practice, he has gained a wealth of clinical experience in oncology and hematology.

Patient Philosophy

Dr. Huang endeavors to find the intersection between science and compassion in caring for his patients. He seeks to design personalized treatment strategies for each individual while helping them maintain the highest possible quality of life. Dr. Huang knows that the doctor-patient relationship in oncology is unlike any other and strives to build a relationship based on trust and mutual respect. He enjoys and makes use of every opportunity to educate his patients so that they are informed and empowered during their care journey.

Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month

March is Multiple Myeloma Awareness Month. According to the American Cancer Society, Multiple Myeloma is a relatively uncommon cancer, with a lifetime risk of 1 in 132 (0.76%). For those living with Multiple Myeloma, what does this diagnosis mean?

Receiving a cancer diagnosis is never easy, not only for patients, but for their families as well. A cancer diagnosis can bring questions surrounding treatment, day-to-day changes and challenges, mental health and even mortality to the forefront. In addition to delivering state-of-the-art medical care, The Oncology Institute (TOI) believes in providing evidence-based information as part of our patient treatment plan.

Multiple Myeloma

Video: Dr. Amitabha Mazumder, Medical Director, Stem Cell Transplant and Transfusions at The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation (TOI) talks Multiple Myeloma, clinical trials, breakthroughs in medicine and how his research has helped improve the quality of life for patients.

What is Multiple Myeloma?

Multiple Myeloma occurs when plasma cells multiply at a rapid rate in the bone marrow, blocking out healthy cells that help to fight infection. The cancerous cells then begin to produce an abnormal antibody called the ‘M protein’ which can trigger symptoms associated with Multiple Myeloma such as bone weakness, severe nerve damage, blood disorders and more.

The American Cancer Society’s estimates for Multiple Myeloma in the United States for 2021 are:

  • About 34,920 new cases will be diagnosed (19,320 in men and 15,600 in women).
  • About 12,410 deaths are expected to occur (6,840 in men and 5,570 in women).

Signs & Symptoms

Multiple Myeloma affects the body in various ways, and while some patients experience little to no symptoms, others may have the following:

  • Low Blood Count
    • This can lead to disorders such as anemia, thrombocytopenia, and leukopenia.
  • Bone Disintegration
    • This type of cancer has profound affect on bone structure — raising calcium levels, causing bone weakness and breaking down bone content.
  • Spinal Cord Compression
    • When the bones weaken, this causes compression in the spine which also leads to severe back pain, numbness, and other nerve damage.
  • Impaired Immune Function & Kidney Problems
    • Due to decreased immunity, pneumonia is common in Multiple Myeloma patients.
    • The proteins in Multiple Myeloma can cause kidney damage that may not show right away, but can cause long-term complications.

For an in-depth review of symptoms from the American Cancer Society, click here.

Disclaimer: Self-diagnosis is never advised, recommended, or certain. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, consult your primary care physician right away so they can order the proper screening and diagnostic tests for you.

Treatment Options

Depending on the stage of the cancer, treatment options for Multiple Myeloma will vary. There are localized treatments, including surgery or radiation therapy, which are typically offered in the earlier stages of a diagnosis. 

Systemic treatments are also available to patients facing a Multiple Myeloma diagnosis. These treatments may include drug therapy or stem cell transplant.

It’s important to consult your oncology team to go over all options available to you, as well as a best plan of care. To find a Oncology Institute location near you, click here.

Participating in Clinical Trials

Video: Tarek Dessouky, MD, MBA, MPH, Executive Director, Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI) talks about the research arm of The Oncology Institute (TOI), addresses common misconceptions of joining a clinical trial, as well as the benefits of participating in a study.

What is a clinical trial?
A cancer treatment clinical trial is a study conducted with patients in order to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a new therapy, diagnostic test, or prevention method. A clinical trial also helps determine new ways to use current therapies and drugs.

Clinical trials are conducted in four phases. The FDA requires clinical trials before any kind of medicine can be approved for the general population. Participating in a clinical trial is one way to get access to new, state-of-the-art cancer treatments.

The Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI) at TOI
Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI) is the research arm of The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation. They are a leader in the field of cancer clinical trials, a network of compassionate, experienced cancer care specialists.

ICRI was founded in 2011. Since then, they have been committed to advancing and innovating cancer treatment through cutting-edge clinical trials. Their goal is to discover safe and effective cancer treatments to improve the quality of life in cancer patients in the US and around the world.

Want more information on clinical trials?

Click below to view the clinical trials we have available

Pinellas Cancer Center Joins The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.–(VIA BUSINESS WIRE)–The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation (TOI) announced the acquisition of Pinellas Cancer Center, operated by Dr. Anil Raiker, marking TOI’s entry into the Florida market. TOI is a multi-state cancer care practice dedicated to healing and empowering patients through compassion, innovation, and state-of-the-art medical care. TOI is the largest value-based oncology practice in the U.S., taking accountability for both the quality outcomes as well as the medical costs associated with a population of more than 1 million patients.

Founded in 2007, The Oncology Institute currently operates 40+ locations across 4 states and is adding additional locations and oncologists in the greater Tampa area in 2021.

In reference to joining TOI, Dr. Raiker stated, “As an oncologist, I am always looking for ways to ensure my patients receive the best treatment possible close to their home. By joining TOI, I can bring new, innovative resources to my patients and colleagues.”

TOI is excited to bring their robust service offering to the greater Tampa area, including:

  • A leading clinical research program offering patients access to more than 100 clinical trials.
  • Comprehensive dispensary and pharmacy services to offer convenience and savings to patients receiving oral chemotherapeutics.
  • A care management program which helps patients navigate a complex healthcare system.
  • A state-of-the-art website with educational resources, scheduling capabilities, and a convenient patient portal.

TOI CEO Brad Hively shared, “Dr. Raiker is respected by his colleagues and beloved by his patients for the compassionate care he’s provided to his patients for more than 20 years. We are thrilled to be welcoming him and his team to TOI.”


To schedule an appointment or view details about the St. Petersburg clinic, click here.

Value-Based Cancer Care: Greater Value Now More Than Ever

By: Yale D. Podnos, MD, MPH, FACS
Chief Medical Officer

Three key advantages of value-based cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted the unique advantages of the value-based model of cancer care. Three of these advantages are especially important during this critical time in history:

1. Value-based cancer care limits unnecessary exposure to Covid-19 by keeping vulnerable patients out of the hospital.

Better outpatient symptom management, a key component of successful value-based care, helps reduce hospital admissions and readmissions by addressing treatment earlier in the outpatient setting before severity necessitates ED and lab visits and, subsequently, hospitalization. By doing that, hospital admissions and readmissions in that tremendously vulnerable population are reduced leading to a reduction in their risk of coronavirus exposure (in addition to other hospital-acquired illnesses).

Another key component of any value-based cancer care model is appropriate and early use of palliative care and hospice. By focusing on symptom management in this population, hospital admissions decrease, keeping critically ill, advanced cancer patients away from the potential infections seen in hospitals.

Stanford study shows both higher quality and lower costs with value-based cancer care

Stanford University School of Medicine, the health plan CareMore Health, and the value-based cancer care organization The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation recently conducted a study showing 40% fewer inpatient admissions and 75% fewer ER admissions (with no difference in survival rates) among patients in the value-based care model.

Titled “Enhancing community capacity to deliver value-based cancer care at the end-of-life,” the study evaluated the effect of intervention using lay health workers (LHWs) for end-of-life cancer care. Specifically, the study evaluated healthcare use in the last month of life and its impact on quality of care and financial burden on patients.

The study enrolled patients newly diagnosed with malignant cancers and compared outcomes in a control group of all patients diagnosed with cancer in the year prior to intervention.

The value-based cancer care model used LHWs, which are non-physician members of the community who have received specialized training, to support patient care and navigation.

Study results, presented at the 2019 ASCO Quality Care Symposium, demonstrated:

    • Better end-of-life care with the value-based model
    • No difference in survival between the groups
    • Among patients receiving value-based care:
      • 25% lower median total healthcare costs from diagnosis until death
      • 45% increase in hospice use
      • 40% fewer acute care facility deaths

2. Value-based care makes good use of limited resources by keeping cancer patients out of the hospital and reserving ICU and ER space for acutely ill patients.

Hospital resources are extremely strained by the COVID-19 pandemic. ERs are packed and even patients with severe conditions are left waiting many hours for a bed. Value-based oncology providers like The Oncology Institute are uniquely positioned to help reduce the strain on local hospitals by managing symptoms in the outpatient setting. This value-based care model reduces inpatient admissions by 40% and ER admissions by 75% while still maintaining the same quality outcomes for patients. While this is hugely valuable for patients and the healthcare system at large at any time, it is especially critical now.

3. In addition to limiting unnecessary treatment, value-based cancer care improves quality of life for patients and their caregivers.

Cancer care near the end of life too often involves excessive, ineffective chemotherapy, drugs, and invasive procedures. These treatment approaches, though well-intended, are often futile and subject the patient to possible complications and side effects that require hospitalization In addition to the safety aspects previously discussed, being hospitalized, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic, severely diminishes quality of life as patients are separated from family and friends, leading to feelings of isolation and mental health challenges. With this also comes the potential for huge medical bills with little or nothing to show for it.

Bottom line:
Value-based care plays a critical role in our healthcare delivery system at all times, but is especially important during times of crisis like the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Yale Podnos headshot

About Yale Podnos, MD, MPH, FACS

A native of Southern California, Yale D. Podnos, MD, MPH, FACS, attended New York University, graduating with a degree in biology. He attended graduate school at the Harvard School of Public Health and medical school at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine, where he also completed his residency in general surgery.

After his residency, he completed a fellowship in surgical oncology at the City of Hope. After training, Dr. Podnos joined the faculty at Duke University and later became the Chairman of the Department of Surgery and Director of Surgical Oncology at UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, NC.

In practice, his specialties are surgical care of patients with pancreatic, hepatobiliary, melanoma, and esophagus cancers. He has authored over 60 scientific publications.

Join Our Foundation’s Board of Directors

At TOI we provide high-quality, cutting-edge cancer care. Every day we see the impact of new innovations and treatment options for our patients. We are proud that we have a charitable arm – the Foundation of Hope and Innovation – dedicated to advancing cancer research, early screening, and patient support. Over the years the Foundation has hosted 5Ks, casino nights, and toy drives to benefit The American Cancer Society, Avon Breast Cancer Foundation, and the Prevent Cancer Foundation.

If you are passionate about cancer research and prevention, and you would like to participate in the governance of our Foundation, we invite you to apply to join the Board of Directors for the Foundation.

Nominations are now open and you can nominate yourself, a colleague, or a patient by filling out this form by February 26, 2021. We look forward to growing our impact in 2021 and working together to improve outcomes for all patients.

TOI Physicians Leading Research

Join us in congratulating Dr. Amitabha Mazumder

Join us in congratulating TOI physician Dr. Amitabha Mazumder on his latest publication in the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s Journal of Clinical Oncology!

Melphalan flufenamide (melflufen) is a first-in-class peptide-drug that targets aminopeptidases and rapidly and selectively releases alkylating agents into tumor cells. The phase II HORIZON trial evaluated the efficacy of melflufen plus dexamethasone in relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma (RRMM), a population with an important unmet medical need.

Thank you, Dr. Mazumder, for your ongoing commitment to research in the field of oncology. You can read a digital version of the publication here.

COVID Vaccine Memo

To Valued Our TOI Patients:

The COVID‐19 crisis has claimed the lives of close to 400,000 Americans. It has also sickened hundreds of thousands more, including many of our own patients, providers and staff. Social distancing measures and vaccination are our best tools in the fight against COVID. The FDA recently approved the Pfizer‐BioNTech and Moderna COVID‐19 vaccines, and tens of thousands of healthcare providers and high‐risk patients across the state have already been vaccinated‐‐including many TOI providers and staff.

We support the COVID‐19 vaccination recommendations from the CDC, our Department of Public Health organizations, and our local county health departments. Currently, our nation is prioritizing COVID‐19 vaccination for front‐line workers and seniors. We expect that over the coming months, the COVID‐19 vaccine will become available to all of our patients of all ages and risk levels. We encourage all of our patients to receive the vaccine for their own health & safety and for those around them.

Our clinics are not expected to become vaccination sites, and we are not expected to receive any doses. We recommend that you follow with your Primary Care Physician (PCP), your local hospital, and your county department of public health for vaccination‐related updates. If you had previously experienced an allergic reaction or an auto‐immune response to a vaccine in the past, or you have other
vaccine‐related concerns or questions, we recommend that you discuss with your PCP. If you are currently receiving treatment at our clinic (eg. “chemotherapy”), we generally recommend that you receive the COVID‐19 vaccine as soon as it becomes available to you; if you have questions you can discuss with your TOI provider.

Sincerely,

Yale Podnos, MD
Chief Clinical Officer
The Oncology Institute


COVID VACCINE RESOURCES

CDC COVID-19 Vaccine Information Page
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/index.html

California Department of Health COVID‐19 Information Page
https://covid19.ca.gov/

Arizona Department of Health COVID‐19 Information Page
https://www.azdhs.gov/index.php


Nevada Department of Health COVID‐19 Information Page
https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/