While advanced non-melanoma skin cancer treatments are available, some patients may still encounter difficulties accessing quality care. Dr. Diwakar Davar discusses common obstacles to care, social determinants of health, and the future of advanced non-melanoma skin cancer research.
Dr. Diwakar Davar is the Clinical Director of the Melanoma and Skin Cancer Program at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. Learn more about Dr. Davar.
It’s not always easy to access the latest treatments or to find a specialist. I’m wondering what the common obstacles patients face in accessing the best care.
Some of the major issues are access to highly specialized treatment centers. Across the entire United States, there are clearly comprehensive cancer centers where the NCIS designated these places as being areas where patient care can deliver clinical trials available.
Oftentimes, there is the breadth of research all the way from population research all the way to clinical trials. Not everybody has access to a comprehensive cancer center. Some patients may be living in a geographical location that is remote. Some patients could be living in a location that is not necessarily remote from a comprehensive cancer center, but may have social determinants of health that make it hard for them to access these comprehensive cancer centers. The only way around this is information.
Patients need to be able to access information in a fashion that is both trusted, and up-to-date, and secure so that they are enabled and equipped with the right information for them to be able to have informed discussions about their care with their providers.
This is all such great information, Dr. Davar. As we wrap up, I would like to get your thoughts.
How do you feel about the future of advanced non-melanoma skin cancer research?
I am actually extraordinary optimistic about this landscape. When I started out as an oncologist, my big focus was in melanoma. I very quickly realized that most of the excitement was certainly, while in melanoma, was being generated, it was actually spilling over into non-melanoma skin cancer and the primary reason for that is the unique patient level challenges that make this disease a difficult disease to treat. The patient age, the comorbidities, the fact that a vast majority of our patients had gotten transplants, and that resulted in a relative contraindication of the administration of the effective agents that were developed that eradicated the majority of this disease.
What oftentimes is a challenge, what is one man’s challenge is another man’s potential cure and it’s a potential benefit in an area in which it could be studied.
What we realize about these challenges is they actually give us opportunities and avenues for research. As we think about non-melanoma skin cancer, we realize that this is an area in which there is tremendous potential where you can potentially give people immune therapy and improved outcomes, but not just improve patient outcomes in making people live longer, but also by reducing the burden of care by reducing the amount of surgery and radiation that people need that enables people to not just live longer, but live longer and maintain their quality of life as they age, and allows them to age with dignity.