Researchers from Harvard and the Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston are reporting that contrary to their designated purpose, so-called tumor boards appear to confer no benefit to patients with regard to care or outcome.
The study, published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, employed 27 measures of use, quality, and survival, and only one suggested that these boards—multidisciplinary medical teams—offer any benefit to cancer patients.
Tumor boards are created to better coordinate cancer care among a variety of specialists Including medical oncologists, pathologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, social workers, and to a lesser extent, palliative care specialists and nutritionists. They come together with a view towards improving quality of care and patient outcomes. These researchers suggest that they might not be doing that at all, and further, that in some instances they're actually worse. A lymphoma-specific example includes lower use of white blood cell growth factors with CHOP combination chemotherapy used against diffuse large B-cell lymphoma,
But they also offered another explanation:
"It might also mean that tumor boards are only as good as their structural and functional components and the expertise of the participants, and because tumor boards likely vary in their efficacy depending on these factors, measuring only the presence of a tumor board may not be sufficient to understand their effects."
In an accompanying editorial, Stanford's Douglas Blayney, MD doesn't think that tumor boards are going to vanish on account of this study, but does think that these boards would benefit from specific feedback regarding their recommendations.
Source: MedPage Today