Connections - August 2014

Thu, 08/28/2014

A Message from the President

Selecting Health Coverage: Important Questions and Considerations


So much has been changing in the realm of insurance coverage for health care, and changing rapidly. As coverage providers navigate new regulations and market dynamics, they adjust their plan offerings from year to year with new stipulations regarding the services, providers and treatments they will cover.

Dr. Donald TrumpIncreasingly, health insurance enrollees have to be engaged, informed consumers, keeping abreast of this constant stream of changes to avoid unwelcome surprises when a need for coverage arises.

A new open enrollment period for health coverage is right around the corner, and consumers will soon have to consider and select a coverage plan starting in 2015. So now is the time to explore options and ask questions about the coverage plans available to you.

For example, you may want to look into the following:

  • What health care centers will my family and I have access to under this plan? For specialty care in areas like cancer care or pediatric medicine, you will want to make sure that comprehensive centers of excellence in your region are considered in-network providers with the plan you select. If not, your family may not be able to get care at those high-performing centers, or may have high out-of-pocket costs for care from those providers.
  • Are all our current physicians and providers of choice affiliated with this plan and available to us? Nationally, there’s been a trend toward narrowing of provider networks, with many insurers restricting the number of providers enrollees can choose from.
  • Particularly if your family is covered by an employer-funded “self-insurance” plan, make sure your insurer is in compliance with Affordable Care Act provisions requiring access to clinical trials. These clinical research studies often provide access to the newest and most advanced therapies for cancer and other serious illnesses.
  • Make sure to select a plan that provides some coverage for prescriptions, and ask about the tier, or pricing level, for any medications you expect to be taking during the coming year.  

A major challenge for anyone selecting health coverage, of course, is that no one knows what health issues or emergencies our families may face in the coming year, yet coverage decisions for 2015 have to be finalized by a plan’s open-enrollment deadline. We all have to make the best decisions we can based on the options available to us and the health status of all family members on our plan, balancing cost considerations with a plan’s coverage benefits.

Given all these important factors, the time you dedicate to getting informed about your coverage options for the year and getting all your questions answered will be time well spent.  

As you make enrollment decisions for the coming year, I encourage you to reach out to any insurers you may be considering to make sure you know exactly what to expect from your health coverage this year, as they can offer the most up-to-date and comprehensive guidance. If you still have questions about access to cancer care under particular insurance plans, please contact Roswell Park’s financial counseling team at (716) 845-4782.

Wishing you and your family good health,

— Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
President and CEO

Institute News

Team Led by Dr. Odunsi Identifies Possible Ovarian Cancer Biomarkers

A Roswell Park-led research effort has established a promising new direction for development of targeted therapies for ovarian cancer. Dr. Kunle Odunsi, Executive Director of the RPCI Center for Immunotherapy, and colleagues found that that several MAGE antigens are biomarkers for the disease. The team is now working to develop treatments for ovarian cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer and melanoma that are based on these unique proteins.

Nicotine Replacement Works Well When Paired with Quitline Support

Smokers who used nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches and lozenges improved their quit rates when using the support of a quitline, with the strongest benefit demonstrated among uninsured smokers. That was the key finding of a collaborative study led by researchers from the RPCI Department of Health Behavior and published in the Journal of Smoking Cessation.

Latest Distinction for RPCI: Institute Named to ‘Great Oncology Programs’ List

Roswell Park’s latest accolade comes from the publication Becker’s Hospital Review, which once again included the Institute on its list of “100 Hospitals and Health Systems With Great Oncology Programs.” The annual listing of centers that are national leaders in patient care, cancer outcomes and research is based on data from such sources as the U.S. News & World Report Best Hospital rankings, BlueCross BlueShield Association recognitions and designations awarded by key oncology and health-care groups.

Donor Dollars at Work

One-of-a-Kind Research Possible Due to the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry at RPCI

This September, pioneering research done at Roswell Park in ovarian cancer will receive national attention thanks to an article set to run in Good Housekeeping, Woman’s Day, and Redbook magazines as well as an online video chat broadcast live from RPCI.

The full-page article, which coincides with National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, will highlight the work of Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, FRCOG, FACOG, and his patient Christine Sable, who received a revolutionary vaccine therapy developed by Dr. Odunsi and his team and is now a 10-year survivor of ovarian cancer.

The interactive online video chat, Ovarian Cancer Talk, will feature input from four leading experts in ovarian cancer, including Dr. Odunsi. Their conversation will be broadcast live straight from RPCI to your computer or mobile device on Monday, Sept. 22, from 6-7 p.m. Anyone can register for the chat or pre-submit questions online at

Dr. Odunsi’s research is part of a larger mission to change how ovarian cancer is treated by focusing on immunological approaches that harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer. Central to this work is the Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry, based at RPCI, which collects genetic information from women and men with strong family histories of ovarian cancer and related diseases. At least 10 percent of ovarian cancers are inherited, and the DNA of people with ovarian cancer in their family may hold the clues to finding better ways to detect, treat and prevent the disease.

The Registry, originally launched as the Gilda Radner Familial Ovarian Cancer Registry, has been collecting DNA samples for more than 30 years. It represents the world’s largest collection of medical data, blood samples and family histories related to ovarian cancer, with information from more than 2,700 families and 50,000 individuals. Researchers at RPCI have direct access to this one-of-a-kind resource, from which they aim to discover key genetic clues about ovarian cancer that they can translate into breakthrough therapies.

Analysis of the Registry helped researchers identify the relationship between BRCA mutations and ovarian cancer, for example. Currently, RPCI investigators are using Registry data from people who tested negative for the BRCA gene mutations to sequence 50 additional genes. The goal is to identify other similar mutations that predispose women for ovarian cancer in order to find those who may benefit from screening or early removal of ovaries.

The registry is 100 percent funded through these generous donations to the RPCI Alliance Foundation. To learn more about how to support this registry, go to

If you are over 18 and have a family history of ovarian cancer, you may be eligible to join the registry, too. Learn how you can help support research to combat ovarian cancer at

The Cancer Experts

Roswell Park faculty members regularly share their expertise with major national media outlets and oncology publications. Some recent examples:

Dr. Patrick Boland to MedPage Today: “For those patients who are not willing to undergo colonoscopy and are currently not undergoing other stool-based screening techniques, I have my doubts that (bacteria-based analysis) would see great use. In any case, it’s exciting to see so many potential new options emerging for colorectal cancer screening.”

Dr. Andrew Hyland to MedPage Today: “Are-cigarettes harmful to individual users? Does marketing encourage young people to start? Does marketing discourage older smokers from trying to quit or does it encourage those smokers to switch over completely? Answers to these questions are key in helping us to understand whether e-cigarettes are a good thing for public health or whether they’re a bad thing for public health.”

Mary Nesline to HemOnc Today: “We’re quickly coming to a place where genomic testing is more a matter of filtering what results to report based on proven clinical utility rather than what genes to test.… We’ll also see better, more accessible informatics tools that direct oncologists to the latest information about clinical options and availability of clinical trials. The focus will be on information that’s actionable, not overwhelming.”



Bosom Buddies

Registration is now open for the Bosom Buddies Walk 2014 on Saturday, Sept. 13. Participants may choose from 1.5-, 3-, or 5-mile walking courses through the Town of East Aurora. Gather your friends and family to come enjoy one of Western New York’s most historic, beautiful neighborhoods, and walk alongside our honorary chair, WGRZ-TV weekend "Daybreak" anchor Heather Ly.

All proceeds from the Bosom Buddies Walk will help make a difference on behalf of the WNY Breast Resource Center at Roswell Park. The center, which is free and open to the public, helps patients and families throughout Western New York navigate their cancer journey from diagnosis and treatment to survivorship.

Sign up today at


Corner Bakery Café: Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month Promotion

The Corner Bakery Café location on Niagara Falls Blvd. will donate 10 percent of all Monday-night dinner sales for 12 weeks to RPCI’s new pediatric unit. Since coming to Western New York in 2011, Corner Bakery Café has become an enthusiastic member of our community. As part of their commitment to giving back to their neighbors, they’ve chosen to support Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s new Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Unit during Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month.

In addition to donating 10 percent of all Monday-night dinner sales, every customer who purchases a kids' meal on Mondays will be entered to win a year’s worth of free kids’ meals.

These funds will go toward two key areas: expanding the size of Roswell Park’s Outpatient Center to accommodate all children diagnosed with cancer and blood disorders, and expanding the planned pediatric inpatient unit at the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“As the manager of the Buffalo Corner Bakery Café, a lifelong Buffalo resident and the father of 2 young children, it is an honor to help support fundraising efforts for Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s new Pediatric Hematology Oncology Center. On behalf of the entire team at Corner Bakery Café, we look forward to seeing you on Monday evenings,” said Zach Whiting, General Manager of the Niagara Falls Boulevard franchise.

Corner Bakery Café is a fast-casual restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Founded on a philosophy of creating a place for people to relax and gather with family and friends, Corner Bakery Café features innovative, seasonal menu options while delivering a premier bakery café experience in the heart of neighborhoods everywhere. For more information, visit


Pole Position Raceway: Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month Promotion

Pole Position Raceway has chosen to donate $5 from every race purchased in September to RPCI’s new pediatric unit. With a stated commitment to support the communities it serves, Pole Position Raceway frequently partners with charities on fundraising initiatives. In keeping with this mission, Pole Position Raceway in the Walden Galleria mall will support Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s pediatric unit throughout Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month in September.

Pole Position Raceway’s give-back charter, CAReS – which stands for Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Recovery and thoSe in need – has chosen to support the new unit. Their donation will help provide world-class care for children in one specialized program combining the services of both Roswell Park and the John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital.

“We are very excited to forge a new partnership with the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation. Pole Position Raceway is new to the Buffalo/Niagara region and it’s our privilege to help raise awareness and funds for the community that Roswell Park supports,” said Karen Davis-Farage, President and co-owner of Pole Position Raceway.

Pole Position Raceway is America’s #1 chain of indoor kart tracks created for racers, by racers. Located on the second floor of the Walden Galleria, across from Regal Cinemas, Pole Position Raceway’s 46,000-square-foot facility boasts a quarter-mile track and the latest in high-performance, all-electric indoor karts capable of speeds up to 45 mph. For more information, visit


All Star Night 2014

All Star Night, Roswell Park’s premier event, will take place on Saturday, Nov. 1, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.

This year’s Gilda Radner Courage Award will be presented to Vince Papale. Vince's lifelong journey to become a Philadelphia Eagle is magically portrayed in Disney's "Invincible." Today, Vince is a colorectal cancer survivor and shares his story with the world.

Learn more about Vince and purchase tickets at

RPCI In the News

Roswell Park’s New Diagnostic Test Promises Cutting-Edge Cancer CareThe Buffalo News
Running: Graim Deeply Committed to Tops Run for RoswellThe Buffalo News
How I ... Help Educate the Hispanic Community — Buffalo Business First
Flowers for Roswell Park Staff From PatientWGRZ-TV Channel 2
Family of Man Who Died of Cancer Brings Flowers to Roswell StaffWIVB-TV Channel 4
John Beard Tours Roswell Park ConstructionWGRZ-TV Channel 2
Roswell Park Alliance Was Born out of Tragedy — The Buffalo News

See more RPCI headlines at

You Should Know

Emerging Trends Seen in Latest Lung Cancer Rates

Fewer people are developing lung cancer overall, according to new findings from the National Cancer Institute.

Over the last three decades, the overall lung cancer rate has dropped about 12 percent, a finding attributed to fewer people smoking. However, certain lung cancer forms, such as adenocarcinoma, which accounts for about 40 percent of lung cancers, are on the rise. These cancers typically begin in the outer areas of the lungs.

Another lung cancer type, squamous cell carcinoma, which affects cells that line the airways and cells in the middle of the lungs, has slowed its decline, compared to previous years.

Both current and former smokers are at higher risk for developing lung cancer and should consider whether cancer screening, such as the services available through RPCI’s High Risk Lung Cancer Screening Program, is appropriate for them.

Legislative Update

As Era of Personalized Medicine Dawns, Need for Federal Oversight of Tests Arises

The newest frontier in medical care is personalized medicine, and the government is determining how to regulate it. Tried-and-true means of approving new drugs and diagnostics are being turned on their heads. Commonly used tests to predict disease or match a cancer patient with the drug most likely to work will now be more strictly regulated under a new U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposal.

The FDA announced last month that it would start regulating medical laboratory testing, saying that tests used to make important treatment decisions must be vetted and validated before they go into use. Manufacturers of tests now on the market will have at least a year to comply with the review requirements once the agency finalizes the proposal.

In the past, the FDA did not regulate diagnostic tests conducted at healthcare facilities because the tests were fairly simple. The agency’s position has changed over the past few years as the tests have become more complex and are used to diagnose more dangerous diseases such as cancer and Lyme disease.
The decision, long in coming, has been fiercely opposed by some laboratories and pathologists, who have said that regulation by the agency is unnecessary and would significantly increase the cost and time needed to develop tests, stifling innovation and depriving patients of some vital tools.

New York State is ahead of the federal government in this regard and already requires this validation. Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) has developed the OmniSeq Target™, an advanced molecular diagnostic laboratory test that was recently approved through the New York State Department of Health’s Clinical Laboratory Evaluation Program.

The test is part of a comprehensive approach developed by the RPCI Center for Personalized Medicine for profiling and interpreting the genetic information contained in the tumor tissue of cancer patients. OmniSeq Target is one of only three tests approved for use in New York State that use next-generation sequencing.

RPCI welcomes this regulatory change since we have already met this challenge in New York State and believe it will level the playing field by putting a similar burden on all newly developed and currently used molecular diagnostic tests.