National system to monitor cancer patients in the works


NEW ORLEANS - Responding to a call to improve the quality of cancer care in the United States, a leading cancer organization said here yesterday that it was working with other groups to develop a national system to monitor how well each cancer patient is treated.

The effort will begin this summer when researchers from Harvard University and RAND Corp. begin examining the medical records of 600 patients to determine their outcomes from two types of cancer.

The first phase will be conducted in Cleveland, Houston and Los Angeles and will involve 300 people with breast cancer, and an additional 300 with cancer of the colon and rectum, the study's leaders said at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncologists, the leading U.S. group of cancer specialists.

The goal is to develop specific measures of quality spanning the course of care. Such measures could be used to hold health-care providers accountable for the quality of cancer care. About 1.2 million Americans will develop cancer this year. Cancer is second to heart disease as a cause of death among Americans.

Breast and colorectal cancers were chosen because consensus for their care is greater than for other major cancers, said Dr. Deborah Kamin, the oncologist group's director of public policy.

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