How to Expand Health Equity in Oncology


Robert A. Winn, MD, discusses financial initiatives for expanding access to anti-cancer treatment and how collaborations with professional organizations may spread awareness of cancer disparities.

In a conversation with CancerNetwork®, Robert A. Winn, MD, spoke about current obstacles in achieving equitable care for patients with cancer and discussed how initiatives from community health centers and federal bodies alike may help increase access to anti-cancer therapy.

Winn, director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center, senior associate for Cancer Innovation, and professor of pulmonary disease and critical cancer medicine at VCU School of Medicine, began the discussion by defining health equity as a principle. By eliminating disparities that impact access to treatment for certain populations, it may be possible for all patients to receive the same kind of care and potentially experience the same outcomes as part of an “even playing field.”

According to Winn, initiatives that may promote health equity in oncology include the ruling from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) allowing for the reimbursing of navigation services to help patients and their families access treatment for cancer and other serious diseases.1 Although Winn said that the field was trending towards the goal of health equity, he stated that more progress was necessary for biomarker testing in lung cancer and other malignancies. Additionally, increasing access to new treatments, technologies, and screening mechanisms across different communities represented another challenge concerning progress.

Winn also spoke about educating others on cancer-related disparities, including his colleagues and other resourceful groups in cancer care. He detailed his experiences with working on the yearly American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Cancer Disparities Progress Reports since the first was published in 2020, which he described as an element that he hopes will educate people and spread awareness. In addition to collaboration among professional bodies including the Association of American Cancer Institutes and the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Winn highlighted local efforts in spreading awareness and improving progress towards health equity.

“By not sitting on our heels and waiting for the community to come to us, but by going out to the community and talking about the importance of screening, talking about the importance of finding a new drug and what that means, and talking about these new technologies, we've actually gotten a very robust group of community members who are actually by our sides and actually making other people aware out in the community,” Winn said regarding Facts & Faith Fridays, an initiative from Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center in collaboration with local faith-based leaders designed to spread awareness of anti-cancer treatment.2 “That has resulted in very positive outcomes for us.”


  1. CMS finalizes physician payment rule that advances health equity. News release. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. November 2, 2023. Accessed February 27, 2024.
  2. Facts & Faith Fridays. VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center. Accessed February 27, 2024.
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