Thirteen of the leading cancer centers in the United States have formed a national alliance, called the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), that will develop and institute standards of care for the treatment of cancer and perform outcomes research. The goal of the NCCN is to ensure the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective services to cancer patients across the country. Over the long term, the NCCN will focus efforts on developing programs for large employers and third-party payors that will provide prevention services and cancer care for individuals.
At present, the NCCN consists of 13 institutions, but plans call for enlargement of the network to possibly 30 to 40 institutions in the future. Charter members of the alliance are: City of Hope National Medical Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Northwestern University/Lurie Cancer Center, Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center/Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, Stanford University Medical Center, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, and University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Rationale for a National Network
Although the 13 institutions have collaborated in the past on research projects, it is the first time that they have participated in a joint business venture, noted Dr. Joseph Simone, Medical Director of the NCCN, at a press conference held in New York on January 31, 1995, to announce formation of the network. The member institutions have come together to set national standards for quality of and access to care, said Dr. Simone, who is Physician-in-Chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. "Also, we want to develop and pool our resources so we can jointly learn about medical outcomes...not just for the small population of patients who receive research-directed interventions in our institutions, but for patients who receive care across the entire spectrum of cancer," he added.
While asserting that the purpose of the alliance is not to tell other centers how they should be treating cancer patients, Dr. Simone did concede, in answer to a query from the floor, that many people may well view the consensus standards of care formulated by the alliance as the "gold standard" of cancer treatments. These standards will, however, be constantly changing as new knowledge and experience accrues, Dr. Simone said.
Each of the charter members has agreed to invest $135,000 annually in the NCCN for the next 3 years. More important than this financial commitment, according to Dr. Simone, however, is the "sweat equity" these institutions will provide.
Reaching Into Local Communities