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Improving Cancer Care

Rutgers researcher granted American Cancer Society funding in studying quality of care for Medicaid patients with breast or colorectal cancer.

Jennifer Tsui, PhD, MPH

“Overall, low-income and racial/ethnic minority patients, particularly those with Medicaid coverage, have worse cancer outcomes. Evidence shows that they are more likely to be diagnosed late, less likely to get and complete treatment, and less likely to survive than higher income or non-minority patients. Our goal is to improve those outcomes.”

These are the words of Jennifer Tsui, PhD, MPH, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, on of several scientists who have grants from the American Cancer Society (ACS) aiding in their research.

The Society uses a rigorous and independent peer review process to select the most innovative research and training projects to fund. Here are some insights into Dr. Tsui’s work.

The Challenge: Research shows that U.S. patients who are insured by Medicaid, have low incomes, or who are part of a minority group often get low-quality cancer care and are more likely to die from certain cancers than patients with private insurance or Medicare. One reason may be a delay in starting cancer treatment because of the time it takes for patients to move from primary care to specialty cancer care. But researchers don’t often study specific factors linked with health care transitions.

The Research: With support from an American Cancer Society grant, Jennifer Tsui, PhD, MPH, is studying the underlying processes, such as referral practices, communication between primary care and specialists, and management of other chronic conditions, that may affect how a patient moves between healthcare providers or settings. She’s specifically studying Medicaid patients who were recently diagnosed with breast or colorectal cancer.

She plans to develop strategies to improve transitions from primary care to specialty care, focusing especially on patients with multiple chronic conditions and challenging social circumstances. She’ll also study whether changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) help providers and health systems adopt best practices and improve cancer care.

The Goal and Long-term Possibilities: Tsui’s goal is to recommend specific changes that would improve transitions in care within the Medicaid system. The team expects their findings to be shared with Medicaid officials and other stakeholders.

ACS grant applications are ranked on the basis of merit by one of several discipline- specific research grant program Peer Review Committees. Each Peer Review Committee is composed of 12 to 25 scientific advisors, or peers, who are experts in their fields. The Council for Extramural Grants, a committee of senior scientists, recommends funding based on the relative merit of the applications, the amount of available funds, and the Society’s objectives. Stakeholders, individuals with a personal interest in cancer, are full voting members of the Council and all Peer Review Committees. The stakeholders improve review by bringing a fresh appreciation of the dedication and impartiality of the volunteers who review the grants on scientific merit. No member of the American Cancer Society’s Board of Directors may serve on a Peer Review Committee or as a voting member on the Council for Extramural Grants. n

For information on additional ACS grantees