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The Cancer Registrar’s Part in Increasing Clinical Trial Enrollment
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On Wednesday, Aug. 8, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak at the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network Policy Forum here in Cleveland. The topic of the forum was increasing clinical trial enrollment by addressing barriers patients encounter. I spoke about the Commission on Cancer standards that focus on clinical trial accrual and patient navigation to help foster enrollment. I ended my presentation with a call to action for attendees to not leave the event the same way they came in. Specifically, to go back to their cancer programs and look for new ways to engage patients and remove barriers.

For me, the most memorable moment of the event was the presentation given by a patient named Matt. In 2011, Matt was preparing to start his third year of medical school when he took a trip to his family doctor to see about a dry cough that would not go away. The diagnosis he left with was stage IV lung cancer. I know what you are thinking. I had the same reaction. How did he go from a dry cough to stage IV lung cancer?

Even after working in healthcare with cancer registries and in clinical research for many years, stories like this never cease to amaze me. Did I mention that Matt was only 24 years old when he was diagnosed? Matt has now been living with the disease for seven years. That statement alone is nothing short of amazing. He credited his survival in part to his participation in clinical trials. I was impressed by his passion for clinical research. Especially when he said he might not be around to see all of the advancements in medicine down the road, but he will keep fighting and sharing his story to advocate for advancements in cancer research while he is with us. 

Later during the event, Matt shared a story about a visit to one of his oncologists. During the visit he noticed information about a program that was launched to promote awareness about clinical trials. I sat there in awe. As he described the program, I realized it was one that I helped create while employed at the cancer center he goes to for treatment. So, all of these years later, I realized I was sitting with a patient who was sharing a story about how he benefited from that very initiative I helped create.

This was a defining moment for me. It was like an out-of-body experience. I was truly humbled and honored to meet a patient who I had crossed paths with years earlier, unbeknownst to both of us. It reminded me that what we all do on a daily basis matters. It may seem small in the moment, but the impact can be huge.

The cancer registry is critical for the collection of data that is used to determine outcomes, clinical trial feasibility, migration patterns and trends, and population analysis. On the other side of what we do are patients. At the policy forum earlier this month, I asked the audience not to leave the event the same, but the truth is, I didn’t leave there the same either. Being a part of that event and meeting Matt was a life-changing moment for me. It reminded me that those of us in the cancer registry industry are a part of saving the lives of cancer patient’s one case at a time. They are counting on us to abstract cases in a timely manner and with a high level of accuracy and quality.

Have you had a similar defining moment in your cancer registry career? Please share your story below.

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About the Author

Vontyna Smith, MPA

Vontyna Smith

15+ Years of Healthcare Experience

ASK ME ABOUTCancer Registry Operations, Clinical Research, CoC Accreditation

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