New findings from the health outcomes group at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center point to yet another area where the COVID-19 pandemic adversely affected cancer patients: Many more Medicaid patients with cancer died at home without hospice care.

The study, presented virtually Friday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, was led by Dr. Scott Ramsey, director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research. HICOR co-director Dr. Veena Shankaran also shared results from her recent analysis of the financial hardships that can follow a cancer diagnosis.

While ASCO 2021’s theme called for “Equity: Every Patient. Every Day. Everywhere,” both studies pointed to a sad lack of equity in current cancer care.

“Moving towards equity is a big lift,” said Dr. Laura Panattoni, Fred Hutch staff scientist and first author of the HICOR study on cancer patient care at end of life. “Our challenge is identifying what systemic features are the most problematic and where to make the changes.”

Panattoni, who presented the data at ASCO 2021, said HICOR researchers were concerned about COVID-19’s impact on cancer patients, especially those who might already be underserved.

Researchers used data on 610 cancer patients, gleaned from the Puget Sound Cancer Surveillance System, or CSS, linking it to insurance claims data from the commercial insurers Premera and Regence or Washington state Medicaid. According to HICOR data, Medicaid patients are more likely to be Black, have lung cancer and to live in low-resourced neighborhoods.

Read the full article about disparities in hospice care by Diane Mapes at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.