Identification of Disparities in Personalized Cancer Care—A Joint Approach of the German WERA Consortium

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Lüke, Florian
Haller, Florian
Utpatel, Kirsten
Krebs, Markus
Meidenbauer, Norbert
Scheiter, Alexander
Spoerl, Silvia
Heudobler, Daniel
Sparrer, Daniela
Kaiser, Ulrich

Simple Summary In Molecular Tumor Boards (MTBs), clinicians and researchers discuss the biology of tumor samples from individual patients to find suitable therapies. MTBs have therefore become key elements of precision oncology programs. Patients living in urban areas with specialized medical centers can easily access MTBs. Dedicated efforts are necessary to also grant equal access for patients from rural areas. To address this challenge, the four German cancer centers in Würzburg, Erlangen, Regensburg and Augsburg collectively measured the regional efficacy of their MTBs. By jointly analyzing the residences of all MTB patients, we uncovered regional differences in our mostly rural catchment area. Mapping and further understanding these local differences—especially the underrepresented white spots—will help resolving inequalities in patient access to precision oncology. Our study represents a hands-on approach to assessing the regional efficacy of a precision oncology program. Moreover, this approach is transferable to other regions and clinical applications.

      (1) Background: molecular tumor boards (MTBs) are crucial instruments for discussing and allocating targeted therapies to suitable cancer patients based on genetic findings. Currently, limited evidence is available regarding the regional impact and the outreach component of MTBs; (2) Methods: we analyzed MTB patient data from four neighboring Bavarian tertiary care oncology centers in Würzburg, Erlangen, Regensburg, and Augsburg, together constituting the WERA Alliance. Absolute patient numbers and regional distribution across the WERA-wide catchment area were weighted with local population densities; (3) Results: the highest MTB patient numbers were found close to the four cancer centers. However, peaks in absolute patient numbers were also detected in more distant and rural areas. Moreover, weighting absolute numbers with local population density allowed for identifying so-called white spots—regions within our catchment that were relatively underrepresented in WERA MTBs; (4) Conclusions: investigating patient data from four neighboring cancer centers, we comprehensively assessed the regional impact of our MTBs. The results confirmed the success of existing collaborative structures with our regional partners. Additionally, our results help identifying potential white spots in providing precision oncology and help establishing a joint WERA-wide outreach strategy.
Journal Title

Cancers 14.20 (2022): 5040.

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