In the constantly evolving field of cancer immunotherapy, it is crucial that community practitioners keep abreast of the latest advances. In this interview with i3 Health, Latha Shivakumar, PhD, CHCP, discusses her poster presentation at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting concerning the initiative she led at the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC): collaborative learning workshops focused on best practices for immunotherapy in the community setting.
What led you to institute collaborative learning workshops focusing on best practices for cancer immunotherapies?
Latha Shivakumar, PhD, CHCP: With the rapidly expanding armamentarium of immunotherapies available to treat various cancers, practitioners need guidance around the practical issues that they must navigate to provide immunotherapy safely and effectively in their own communities. Community practitioners may lack familiarity with the best practices for the use of immunotherapies to treat patients with cancer, including management of the unique set of immune-related toxicities, or immune-related adverse events (irAEs), associated with this class of agents.
This initiative was instituted to provide guidance for the entire cancer care team on key issues related to the optimal integration of cancer immunotherapies in the community, including selection of immunotherapy, monitoring and management of irAEs, care coordination within the multidisciplinary care team, access to care, and patient education and engagement.
What did the workshops entail?
Dr. Shivakumar: The collaborative learning workshops were hosted by ACCC member cancer programs/centers. A multidisciplinary steering committee consisting of two medical oncologists, an oncology nurse, and an oncology pharmacist led this initiative. The workshops started with a 45-minute open discussion section where the steering committee members posed questions to the learners to understand institution-specific challenges in implementing immunotherapies. The faculty took cues from the discussion and focused the remainder of the education on addressing the specific challenges and barriers, rather than merely summarizing recent clinical data. The faculty presented clinical evidence for the various cancer immunotherapies within the context of case scenarios. At the end of the workshops, the faculty guided the participants in drafting an action plan to incorporate short-term and long-term changes into their practice. The host cancer centers were surveyed at three and six months following participation in the workshops to assess the status of their action plans.
What were participants' reactions to the workshops?
Dr. Shivakumar: The participants were appreciative of the interactive discussion and the excellent ideas from the faculty for making improvements in education, care coordination, treatment adherence, and access to care. In the post-activity evaluation, 82% of the participants reported that they intended to make changes in their practice following participation in this initiative, and the remaining 18% reported that the information presented reinforced their current practice. Following participation in the workshops, 100% of the participants reported being confident in their ability to make changes in their practice.
What are some of the changes that participants later implemented as a result of the training?
Dr. Shivakumar: The types of changes that the participants implemented included utilizing effective care coordination and communication practices, modifying approaches for addressing treatment adherence challenges, identifying and managing irAEs, and implementing multidisciplinary approaches to care.
What are some key takeaways from this process that you could share with community hospitals seeking to implement collaborative learning workshops?
Dr. Shivakumar: This interactive format allowed for bidirectional learning; the faculty were intrigued to learn about the practices and challenges of the host community cancer centers. The open discussion format of the learning workshops served to capture the attention of the learners in the education following the open discussion section, as participants were interested in learning about solutions to address the specific challenges at their institution. The conversational format allowed the faculty and the learners to have an open discussion on a variety of topics related to implementing immunotherapies. The faculty were usually open to sharing tools/resources from their own institutions to help address specific challenges faced by the community practitioners.
The highlight of these workshops was the action plan that was drafted at the end of the workshop with guidance from the steering committee members, who encouraged participants to implement concrete changes within their practice. Following participation in the workshops, community practitioners were motivated to implement all of the drafted changes in their practice.
About Dr. Shivakumar
Latha Shivakumar, PhD, CHCP, is the Director of Clinical Education Development at the Association of Community Cancer Centers. Previously, she served as the Director of Educational Development at the France Foundation and as the Senior Medical Director of Oncology at Rockpointe.
For More Information
Shivakumar L, Perloff T & Lucas L (2019). Collaborative learning workshops to optimize integration of cancer immunotherapies in the community setting. J Clin Oncol, 37(suppl). Abstract 10535.
Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker's own and do not necessarily represent those of i3 Health.