Michael R. Cummings, MD, pathologist at Kennewick General Hospital (KGH), recently received a three-year appointment as Cancer Liaison Physician for the Hospital Cancer Program at KGH. The Cancer Liaison Physician Program is an integral part of the Commission on Cancer (CoC) of the American College of Surgeons.

Dr. Cummings is among a national network of more than 1,600 volunteer Cancer Liaison Physicians who provide leadership and support to the CoC Approvals Program, and other CoC activities at their local facility.

Dr. Cummings, who has a significant interest in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with malignant diseases, provides direction as a member of the multidisciplinary cancer committee at KGH in order to maintain or seek CoC approval of KGH's cancer program.

The CoC is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to reducing the morbidity and mortality of cancer through education, standard-setting, and monitoring quality of cancer care. Its membership includes Fellows of the American College of Surgeons and 39 national organizations that reflect the full spectrum of cancer care. The Commission's core functions include setting standards for quality, multidisciplinary cancer patient care and cancer patient data collection at over 1,400 approved facilities, surveying those facilities to evaluate compliance with the standards, and using the data to evaluate hospital provider performance and develop effective educational interventions to improve cancer care outcomes at the national, state and local level. Twenty-two percent of the hospitals in the United States have cancer programs approved by the CoC and 80 percent of newly diagnosed cancer patients are treated in these institutions.

Cancer Liaison Physicians are responsible for fostering and communicating CoC initiatives at the facility level, and for coordinating community outreach activities in conjunction with the cancer committee. As Community Outreach Coordinator, the Cancer Physician Liaison develops goals for the cancer program to include the provision of support services and prevention and early detection programs to the community; works with the local American Cancer Society on strategies to accomplish community outreach goals and other cancer control projects of interest to the facility; and utilizes facility cancer patient data submitted to the CoC's National Cancer Database (NCDB). Data received from the 1,400+ CoC-approved cancer programs are aggregated and reported back to the individual facilities to assist them in studying patterns of care and identifying quality improvement initiatives to address gaps in cancer care.

The NCDB currently contains patient demographics, tumor characteristics, treatment, and outcomes information for over 15 million malignant cancers diagnosed and treated at hospital cancer programs in the United States between 1985 and 2002. These data account for approximately two thirds of newly diagnosed cancers in the US each year. The Cancer Liaison Physician cooperates regularly with this program in the submission, presentation, use and interpretation of reports. His or her participation in this program and sharing this data with the cancer committee can positively impact cancer patient care at their facility.

In an effort to assist the more than 1.3 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, Cancer Liaison Physicians at CoC-approved programs facilitate participation in the Commission's Facility Information Profile System (FIPS). FIPS is a data-sharing project between the CoC and the American Cancer Society, which provides the public with information on facilities' resources, services and cancer experience. These data are shared with the public through the ACS National Call Center, 1800-ACS-2345, and web site at www.cancer.org.

For more information on the Cancer Liaison Program and the Commission on Cancer, please contact the Commission on Cancer at the American College of Surgeons, 633 N. Saint Clair St., Chicago, IL 60611, 312-202-5085, or visit their web site at www.facs.org/cancer. <