Interview with Dr. Richard Wender of American Cancer Society

Richard C. Wender, MD, chief cancer control officer of the American Cancer Society, helps lead the only comprehensive cancer control organization in the world. He drives the effort to transform the face of cancer here and around the globe by developing strategies for access to care, patient navigation, and health equity. Prior to joining the Society’s staff in 2013, he provided extensive volunteer leadership at the organization’s state and local levels. In 2006, he was elected national president of the Society, becoming the first primary care physician to serve in this capacity. Read his full bio.

Interview with Dr. Richard Wender of American Cancer Society

Q: You recently recommended that colorectal cancer screening begin at age 45. How artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies might help better screen for cancer among different racial subgroups?

A: Assessing risk for CRC and screening status through EMR’s has traditionally been very difficult. Natural language processing and AI can theoretically search charts to detect family history status to establish risk and to record evidence that colonoscopy has performed in the past. (These data are not always entered in a searchable field).

Automated reminders can be generated.

For those with possible non-invasive tests, systems to connect primary care practices with specialty practices scheduling systems.

Evaluation of social media trends can help generate effective reminders and public health messaging.

Q: A new report in the NEJM suggested that the complete removal of the thyroid gland in newly diagnosed patients with thyroid cancer is unnecessary and might cause irreversible harm. How the American Cancer Society can take the lead on this issue?

A: ACS is the leading source of cancer information through our website and the National Cancer Information Center. We will ensure that these sources reflect this new information.

The ACS does not write treatment guidelines and is generally not looked to by professionals for this information. It’s unlikely that ACS can or would take the lead on this issue.

Q: Does the American Cancer Society collaborate with companies developing new anticancer therapeutics, diagnostic tests, and digital health applications?

A: ACS has a large number of collaborators across many types of programs and dimensions and a lot of industries. Many companies are members of our National Roundtables in HPV vaccination, Colorectal cancer screening, patient navigation, and lung cancer.

We have a partnership with Belong – the leading cancer app for patients and caregivers. Extensive AI capacity.

We have an extensive partnership with IBM, focusing on improving cancer care in Africa with purchasing forecasting tool and an app to summarize African treatment guidelines.

Q: How the digital health industry can partner with the American Cancer Society to help improve access, navigation, and health equity in screening and quality cancer treatment?

A: The potential of these types of partnerships is great. Improved, tailored ways to assess individual risk, communicate with patients, organize and search health information, drive risk appropriate screening recommendations and prompts, automated forms of patient navigation, new forms of telehealth, and ways to organize data to measure and promote quality.

Oncologists cannot possibly know and recall the best treatment options for all patients in light of newly available molecular profiling of cancers. Data aggregation and sharing, tracking of treatment outcomes, searches of treatment guidelines, and ways to make recommended treatments and available clinical trials accessible to treatment teams is increasingly defining a central goal of applying technology to improving treatment. Today, patients cared for at major cancer centers are likely to get more up to date and informed treatment recommendations than many patients cared for in smaller, local or regional hospitals. AI can help democratize treatment recommendations and state of the art guidelines everywhere.