MBC Study Patients Stay Safe & Supported with Care Coordinator, Nurse Coach
More than 40 metastatic breast cancer patients are currently receiving extra clinical services and support during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to a $245,000 eight-month quality improvement project grant from Pfizer awarded to Duke Cancer Institute breast oncologist Gretchen Kimmick, MD, MS, and psychologist Rebecca Shelby, PhD.
In order to qualify for enrollment in the program — “Better Quality of Care From a Distance for Breast Cancer Patients” — patients are required to be in treatment at DCI for HR+/HER2- (hormone receptor positive/ human epidermal growth factor receptor 2 negative) stage 4 breast cancer with endocrine therapy combined with a CDK4/6 inhibitor or other oral medicine.
The Pfizer grant funds non-clinically reimbursable services during COVID and enables the breast team to offer qualifying patients, free-of-charge:
- a care coordinator to help arrange for regular blood draws at the patient’s home or at a lab close to the patient’s home.
- the services of a nurse coach, who contacts patients by telephone on a regular basis to assist with symptom management and provide emotional support.
All information is shared with the patient’s physician so that seamless, top-quality care continues.
Kimmick and Shelby are hoping that, with these supportive clinical interventions, patients will stay on track with their treatment regimen, stay safe by avoiding trips away from home as much as possible, and receive much needed additional support during the stress of the pandemic.
“The challenges of treating breast cancer patients during the pandemic are many! Patients are worried not only about their cancer, but about being more vulnerable to the COVID virus and frightened to go out, even to see the doctor,” said Kimmick. “This project allows us to provide as much care to patients as possible without coming into a potentially crowded lab or doctor’s office, while providing extra medical and psychologic support. We can’t do a physical exam via telehealth, so patients still must come in, but hopefully less often.”
Kimmick and Shelby began enrolling patients in the program on Oct. 1, 2020 and have a projected end-date of May 31 this year. There is still space, for metastatic breast cancer patients who qualify, to take advantage of the program.
“Dr. Shelby and I have been working together for almost 15 years and saw this grant opportunity as a great way to support our patients,” said Kimmick. “The patients appreciate the extra resources. We have a few more months for the project and would really like to help as many patients as time and resources allow.”
Kimmick explained that manning the program is made possible by redeploying DCI staff whose functions may have changed during the pandemic. The nurse coaches on the program, for example, are expertly trained nurses who were already part of a larger research program focused on telehealth care for patients on oral medicines, which includes an NIH-funded project centered on breast cancer patients on adjuvant endocrine therapies.
The success of the program, Kimmick said, will be measured by patient and provider satisfaction with the additional services.
For more information and/or to see if you or a loved one may qualify for participation in the program, please contact Luz Molinari at 919.681.2928 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be advised that all participants will be asked to fill out patient satisfaction surveys.
Providers interested in the program may also contact Luz Molinari.