Thomas Leblanc, MD, MA, MHS, FAAHPM, is one of two DCI faculty to be named a Fellow of ASCO this year
Thomas Leblanc, MD, MA, MHS, FAAHPM, Duke Cancer Institute clinical hematologic malignancies specialist, palliative care physician, and patient experience researcher, has been named a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (FASCO), ASCO announced last week in a press release introducing the 2021 FASCO class and presenting other special awards. Daniel George, MD, DCI professor and director of DCI’s Genitourinary Cancer program was also named a Fellow of ASCO (READ)
The FASCO distinction recognizes ASCO members for their extraordinary volunteer service, dedication, and commitment to ASCO.
LeBlanc’s clinical practice focuses on the care of patients with myeloid malignancies and acute leukemias, including AML, ALL, MDS, CML, and related diseases. His research uses both quantitative and qualitative methods to better understand the patient experience of living with (and being treated for) blood cancer, which informs interventions such as integrated palliative care to improve those experiences.
LeBlanc is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy (2017-present) and an associate professor in the Department of Population Health Sciences (2019-present) in the Duke University School of Medicine. He first joined the Department of Medicine faculty as a medical instructor in 2010 and in 2013 became an assistant professor in the Department. He’s been a member of Duke Cancer Institute since 2013.
LeBlanc earned both an MD and an MA in Philosophy from Duke in 2006 and stayed for his internship (2006-2007) and residency training (2007-2009) in Internal Medicine. From 2010 to 2011, he served as chief medical resident at the Durham VA Medical Center. He went on to complete fellowships at Duke in Hospice and Palliative Medicine (2012) and Medical Oncology (2013).
LeBlanc has been active in ASCO since 2013 when he began a three-year term as a member of the Ethics Committee. He went on to serve as chair of that committee (2017-2018). During 2016-2017, he was track leader of the Patient and Survivor Care Scientific Program Track of the ASCO Annual Meeting, and from 2017 to 2019 he was a member of the Planning Committee for the ASCO Palliative & Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium. LeBlanc has also served on the Scientific Program Committee: Patient and Survivor Care Track (2016-2018) and the Taxonomy Subcommittee (2016-2019). He is currently serving a four-year term with ASCO’s Supportive Care Guidelines Advisory Group (2019-2023).
In addition to his volunteer roles with ASCO, LeBlanc has served in a leadership or membership capacity in various other cancer-focused national committees and organizations, including serving on the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Guideline Panel on Acute Myeloid Leukemia (2018-2019).
He currently chairs the Scientific Review Committee of the NIH/NINR-funded Palliative Care Research Cooperative Group (PCRC) and recently completed a two-year term chairing the Academic Council of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM). LeBlanc has served as co-chair, Palliative and Supportive Care Specal Interest Group, American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy, since 2016. He’s been a member of both the American Society of Hematology Palliative Care Working Group, and The Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology Ethics Committee since 2017.
LeBlanc is associate editor of BMC Palliative Care and is a member of the editorial advisory boards of the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management and the Journal of Palliative Care.
Key Studies, New Standard of Care
LeBlanc’s research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Palliative Care Research Center, the Cambia Health Foundation, and the American Cancer Society, along with various industry partners.
His recent research efforts have focused on assessing symptom burden, quality of life, and distress in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) — a highly aggressive cancer of the blood and bone marrow with a poor prognosis. LeBlanc has also looked at how these patients understand their prognosis and how that factors into their treatment decisions.
Patients with blood cancers have traditionally been much less likely to receive palliative care services, as compared to those with solid tumors, even though blood cancer patients appear to have similar palliative care needs.
LeBlanc’s work in palliative medicine for blood cancer patients led to his recognition as an “Inspirational Leader Under 40” by the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine (AAHPM) in 2015 and “fellow” status from the Academy in 2016, followed four years later by an AAHPM Early Career Investigator Award.
He is also the recipient of an international Clinical Impact Award from the European Association for Palliative Care for his clinical research on integrating palliative care into blood cancer care.
LeBlanc has published over 150 peer-reviewed articles, along with several chapters in prominent textbooks in oncology and palliative medicine.
His most impactful publication of late — Effectiveness of Integrated Palliative and Oncology Care for Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial — was published in JAMA Oncology this past December.
Following a three-year study (NCT 02975869), co-led by Duke University School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, the team of investigators concluded that early integration of palliative care improves the quality of life for patients with high-risk AML who are hospitalized for high-dose chemotherapy.
According to LeBlanc, the study — funded in part by a grant award to LeBlanc from the Cambia Health Foundation — was the first multi-site randomized trial of an integrated palliative care intervention in patients with any blood cancer and established a new standard of care for these patients.
In the study, patients receiving the palliative care intervention showed marked improvements in quality of life, anxiety and depression symptoms, and post-traumatic stress symptoms — beginning two weeks after enrollment and sustained at six months. Those who received the intervention were also more likely to report discussing their end-of-life care preferences, and less likely to receive chemotherapy in the last 30 days of their life.
Future work, LeBlanc said, will apply this intervention to patients receiving low-intensity and/or outpatient treatments for AML, and to other hematologic malignancy subtypes as well.
His long-term research and career goal is “to develop and test innovative models for integrating palliative care as a standard part of blood cancer care, far upstream from the end-of-life phase, and to overall improve the patient experience of cancer.”
Recognition for Life
LeBlanc and George were two of 34 individuals nationwide to earn the FASCO designation this year.
Once conferred, the recognition is for life. The two are in good company at DCI — joining Kevin Oeffinger, MD, FASCO (2020); Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS, FASCO (2019); Arif Kamal, MD, MBA, MHS, FAAHPM, FASCO (2019); Susan Halabi, PhD, FASCO (2018); Christopher Willett, MD, FASCO (2011); and James L. Abbruzzese, MD, FASCO, BA (2008).
The FASCO recognition, which originated in 2007 as the ASCO Statesman Award, has been conferred on 399 individuals to date. Founded in 1964, ASCO has 45,000 members — oncology professionals who care for people living with cancer.
“The recipients of this year’s Special Awards have made exceptional contributions to the oncology community. It is our honor to recognize their commitment to transforming cancer care and improving quality of life for people living with cancer.” — Monica Bertagnolli, MD, FASC, FASCO, past president of ASCO and chair of the Joint Special Awards Selection Committee, in a press release from ASCO
Learn More about Dr. LeBlanc's Research
Effectiveness of Integrated Palliative and Oncology Care for Patients With Acute Myeloid Leukemia: A Randomized Clinical Trial JAMA Oncology. Dec. 17, 2020. Areej El-Jawahri, MD; Thomas W. LeBlanc, MD; Alison Kavanaugh, NP; Jason A.Webb, MD; Vicki A.Jackson, MD; Toby C. Campbell, MD; Nina O’Connor, MD; Selina M. Luger, MD; Ellin Gafford, MD; Jillian Gustin, MD; Bhavana Bhatnagar, DO; Alison R. Walker, MD; Amir T. Fathi, MD; Andrew M.Brunner, MD; Gabriela S. Hobbs, MD; Showly Nicholson, BS; Debra Davis, RN, BSN; Hilena Addis, BS; Dagny Vaughn, BA; Nora Horick, MS; Joseph A Greer, PhD; Jennifer S.Temel, MD.
Palliative Care Improves Quality of Life for Patients with Leukemia
(Duke Health News, December 17, 2020)
Leblanc receives Sojourns Award for palliative care project
(Duke Department of Medicine, Sept. 2, 2015)
Thomas LeBlanc, MD MA – Inspiring Hospice and Palliative Medicine Leaders Under 40
(AAHPM, Feb. 11, 2015)