“The software streamlines processes through electronic communication and is essential for a busy chemotherapy unit like Sunnybrook’s, which delivers treatment to about 23,000 patients each year,” explains Dr. Maureen Trudeau, Sunnybrook’s head of medical oncology.
The complexity of cancer drug treatments continues to increase. There are more than 400 different treatments, which vary in duration from 15 minutes to eight hours, plus clinical trials that result in changing treatment protocols. CHARM improves efficiency by accounting for various factors, including blood work requirements, medication mix time, nursing preparation and teaching time, patient condition, treatment complexity and infusion time.
The latest improvement in the drug therapy patient experience at the Odette Cancer Centre is the addition of a screen in the chemo waiting area that confidentially displays real-time information on appointment status. The aim is to keep patients in the loop at all times.
For instance, patients can see when their medications are being prepared and know how close they are to being called into the treatment suite. “Having this information frees patients to move around much more,” says Sousa. “They can go and grab a coffee if they want, rather than be glued to their seats.”
Dr. Calvin Law, interim Odette Cancer Program chief, says innovation within Sunnybrook’s drug therapy program is wide-ranging. “Our experts do it all. They test and provide access to promising therapies. They pioneer the treatments of tomorrow through fundamental research, and they improve how we deliver treatment to patients.
“In the end, it all comes down to improving people’s lives.”
Dr. Yuval Shaked (Left) and Dr. Robert Kerbel kerbel are partnering on preclinical studies on the potential of “less is more” cancer treatments.
MORE QUICKLY TO THE ATTACK
For people with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), time is particularly of the essence. The cancer, which accounts for approximately 80 per cent of all lung cancers, can spark a rapid decline in health.
That’s why Sunnybrook has made changes that have resulted in these patients beginning drug therapy about three weeks sooner. Sunnybrook medical oncologist Dr. Parneet
Cheema and Dr. Simon Raphael, deputy chief of Anatomic Pathology at Sunnybrook, spearheaded the initiative and are now sharing their experience with other Canadian hospitals to improve care for lung cancer patients further afield.
Through collaboration by medical oncologists and pathologists, Sunnybrook now expedites crucial tests that detect genetic mutations relevant to NSCLC patients. “Having one of the two mutations – known by their acronyms EGFR and ALK – will influence the choice of treatment,” says Dr. Raphael, “so the sooner the status is known the sooner care can get underway.”
Starting treatment earlier allows patients to receive life-extending drugs sooner, before they are too sick to receive therapy. “By receiving personalized drug therapy, according to the results of these mutation tests,” notes Dr. Cheema, “patients may gain much more time – in some cases years – and improvement in their quality of life.
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