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Cancer Symposium to Tackle the Value of Medicine

Dr. John Marshall

Dr. John Marshall, director of Georgetown's Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers, will help explore how the medical community and policymakers define the value of treatments it gives cancer patients during a a three-day symposium with researchers and policymakers.

November 28, 2011 – Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), a 1966 graduate of the Law Center, will be among the speakers at a three-day symposium on “Fighting a Smarter War Against Cancer: Linking Policy to the Patient” Dec. 1-3 at Georgetown.

The symposium is sponsored by The Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital.

“Fighting a Smarter War Against Cancer,” designed to address policy, value and patient care issues, is open to the public.

“Value has become very important to us in medicine today,” says Dr. John Marshall, head of hematology and oncology at Lombardi and Ruesch Center director. “How do we define the value of treatments we are giving to patients? How do drugs stack up against one another from a value perspective and what do patients want?”

Broad Perspective

The Ruesch Center has invited to the symposium representatives from the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the National Institutes of Health, the private insurance industry, the biotechnology industry, legal and bioethics groups, patient advocacy groups and practicing physicians to gain a broader perspective on cancer care.

Hoyer will speak Dec. 1 at the McDonough School of Business’ Rafik Hariri building, followed by a panel discussion that includes Dr. David Kerr, who helped reform the United Kingdom’s National Health Service and has advised two British prime ministers on health care policy. Kerr will present the keynote lecture.

Marshall notes that the United States is just starting to talk about assigning value to medical care in the context of the recent political debate over health care reform and timely discussions to reduce the national budget shortfall.

Defining Value

Politicians can’t be the only ones at the table, Marshall says.

“We need to give our regulators some targets to define value,” he says. “They need to include those of us who practice medicine in the discussion, and they will need to include patients in the discussion of ... what should we be spending our tax dollars on and what shouldn’t we be?”

A variety of speakers and panel discussions will address the cost of cancer care in the United States and the impact of guideline-based medicine, among other topics, on Dec. 2 at the Law Center.

The second day of the symposium will include introductory comments from Dr. M. Gregg Bloche, a Georgetown law professor and author of The Hippocratic Myth: Why Doctors Are Under Pressure to Ration Care, Practice Politics, and Compromise Their Promise to Heal (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Smarter Path

The final session on Dec. 3 will focus on patient care issues aat the Georgetown University Hotel & Conference Center. Georgetown faculty members in cancer research and personalized medicine will present their views.

Marshall notes that this is a time of change but also a moment of opportunity.

“Through a careful reexamination of our current cancer research and treatment community, we will find a smarter, more efficient more promising path forward,” Marshall says.

More information on the symposium, including a full agenda for each day and a link to register, can be found at

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