Tumor Boards Enhance Outcomes at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center

  • Category: Blog
  • Posted On:
Tumor Boards Enhance Outcomes at OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center

When a cancer patient in her 30s came to OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center, she was already in the last trimester of her first pregnancy. Because of the aggressive nature of her cancer, chemotherapy was the best first step in her care, but doctors were faced with the challenge of helping her deliver a healthy baby, preserving her future fertility, while tackling a deadly disease.

Stephenson Cancer Center recognizes that complex cancer cases require a collaborative approach. To address this, they established tumor boards. A tumor board is a group meeting in which subspecialties involved in cancer treatment meet to create a specialized treatment plan for a patient. For example, the breast tumor board includes breast surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, clinical trial nurses and radiologists who collaboratively discuss newly diagnosed breast cancer cases to develop the best treatment plan.

Tumor boards are part of Stephenson Cancer Center’s dedication to multidisciplinary care.

“Everyone was present in that patient’s meeting, including her OB/GYN,” said Dr. Wajeeha Razaq, M.D., a hematologist-oncologist at Stephenson Cancer Center and associate professor in the Section of Hematology-Oncology in the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

“As a board, we made sure that her delivery was on time and even a bit early. We did scans to stage her cancer appropriately, and we were able to preserve her future fertility. After delivery, we started her on chemotherapy, and right now, her tumor is responding well.”

The Significance of Tumor Boards in Delivering Effective Care

Tumor boards are part of a treatment planning process in which a group of cancer doctors and other health care specialists meet regularly to review and discuss new and complex cancer cases. The goal of a tumor board review is to decide, as a group; on the best treatment plan for a patient.

With specialists involved from many areas of healthcare, including medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, pathologists, radiologists, genetics experts, nurses, physical therapists and social workers, treatment plans are thoroughly researched and discussed.

“Each cancer is just a little bit different, especially when considering type, biology, staging, cancer location, etc.,” said surgical oncologist and breast cancer surgeon Dr. Juan Claros Sorto, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

“Being able to discuss every detail of the diagnosis with all the members of the team in a single site is paramount to really provide comprehensive care. This also allows for continuity throughout a patient’s treatment and journey; ensuring nothing is delayed.”

Often, patients will have surgery first followed by chemotherapy or hormone therapy and radiation. All plans developed at Stephenson Cancer Center’s tumor boards are patient specific, and because the experts on these boards all have different medical backgrounds relating to the care of a cancer patient, they share different perspectives.

“It’s important to have all players at the same table to discuss difficult cases and reach a consensus for the best results. Otherwise, miscommunication can lead to confusion, and we will not have the best results,” said Dr. Razaq.

Smaller hospitals often maintain a single general tumor board that addresses various cancer cases, including rare and infrequently treated complex cancers. In contrast, large National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Centers like Stephenson Cancer Center operate multiple specialized tumor boards, each dedicated to a specific type of cancer. For example, one tumor board convenes to discuss breast cancer cases, while another focuses on lung, colon, pancreas cancer, etc.

Meeting weekly, each cancer case is presented individually to the board. The care team discusses the health history and detailed information about the tumor, including radiology scans and microscopic slides from any biopsies. After getting all the facts, the board as a team discusses and develops treatment options.

Dr. Claros-Sorto compares cancer to a battle or war. Just as victory requires coordination among skilled warriors and soldiers, tumor boards facilitate crucial communication. “This is what tumor boards allow us to do. We are the patient’s warriors and advocates, and we are coming up with an attack plan for each patient.”

Delivering Comprehensive, Multidisciplinary Cancer Care

In 2018, Stephenson Cancer Center achieved the prestigious status of becoming a National Cancer-Institute Designated Cancer Center, becoming the sole center in Oklahoma with this distinction. As an NCI-Designated Cancer Center, Stephenson stands at the forefront of cancer research and treatment—a distinction earned by only 2% of cancer centers nationwide.

Statistics show that patients receiving care at NCI-designated cancer centers have up to 25% improved survival one year after diagnosis – a remarkable finding that underscores the significance of where one seeks cancer treatment. Tumor boards are an important aspect to the multidisciplinary care offered at NCI-Designated Cancer Centers like Stephenson Cancer Center.

Learn more about comprehensive, multidisciplinary cancer care at Stephenson Cancer Center or speak to an expert by calling (405) 271-1112.