Patients benefit from multidisciplinary care that coordinates management of complex medical problems. Traditionally, multidisciplinary cancer care involves oncology specialty providers in fields that include medical oncology, radiation oncology, and surgical oncology. Multidisciplinary cancer care intends to improve patient outcomes by bringing together different health care providers (HCPs) who are involved in the treatment of patients with cancer. Because new therapies are more effective and allow patients with cancer to live longer, adverse effects (AEs) are more likely to impact patients’ well-being, both while receiving treatment and long after it has completed. Thus, this population may benefit from an expanded approach to multidisciplinary care that includes input from specialty and primary care providers (PCPs), clinical pharmacy specialists (CPS), physical and occupational therapists, and patient navigators and educators.
We present 4 hypothetical cases, based on actual patients, that illustrate opportunities where multidisciplinary care coordination may improve patient experiences. These cases draw on current quality initiatives from the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program, which has focused on improving the quality of multidisciplinary cancer care at selected community centers, and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) patient-aligned care team (PACT) model, which brings together different health professionals to optimize primary care coordination.1,2 In addition, the National Committee for Quality Assurance has introduced an educational initiative to facilitate implementation of an oncologic medical home.3 This initiative stresses increased multidisciplinary communication, patient-centered care delivery, and reduced fragmentation of care for this population. Despite these guidelines and experiences from other medical specialties, models for integrated cancer care have not been implemented in a prospective fashion within the VHA.
In this article, we focus on opportunities to take collaborative care approaches for the treatment of patients with follicular lymphoma (FL): a common, incurable, and often indolent B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma.4 FL was selected because these patients may be treated numerous times and long-term sequalae can accumulate throughout their cancer continuum (a series of health events encompassing cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, relapse, and death).5 HCPs in distinct roles can assist patients with cancer in optimizing their health outcomes and overall wellbeing.6
Case Example 1
A 70-year-old male was diagnosed with stage IV FL. Because of his advanced disease, he began therapy with R-CHOP (rituximab, cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, vincristine, prednisone). Prednisone was administered at 100 mg daily on the first 5 days of each 21-day cycle. On day 4 of the first treatment cycle, the patient notified his oncologist that he had been very thirsty and his random blood sugar values on 2 different days were 283 mg/dL and 312 mg/dL. A laboratory review revealed his hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) 7 months prior was 5.6%.
The high-dose prednisone component of this and other lymphoma therapy regimens can worsen diabetes mellitus (DM) control and/or worsen prediabetes. Patient characteristics that increase the risk of developing glucocorticoid-induced DM after CHOP chemotherapy include age ≥ 60 years, HbA1c > 6.1%, and body mass index > 30.7 This patient did not have DM prior to the FL therapy initiation, but afterwards he met diagnostic criteria for DM. For completeness, other causes for elevated blood glucose should be ruled out (ie, infection, laboratory error, etc.). An oncologist often will triage acute hyperglycemia, treating immediately with IV fluids and/or insulin. Thereafter, ongoing chronic disease management for DM may be best managed by PCPs, certified DM educators, and registered dieticians.