Despite Large Numbers of Female Gynecologic Surgeons, Gender Disparities and Harassment Persist – Responses

Marina Stasenko, MD Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Dr. Stasenko
Photo: MSKCC

Marina Stasenko, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that includes gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. A recent report in Fortune magazine noted that over half of US women have experienced sexual harassment at some point in their lives. Until recently, much of the conversation about sexual harassment in the workplace has been relegated to private discussions behind closed doors. However, the MeToo movement has shined a spotlight on the pervasive nature of sexual harassment in various fields, like media and business world. Although there are more female physicians in practice today than ever before, with women accounting for over 50% of young physicians, sexual harassment and gender disparities continue to plague the field of medicine.

Despite the large female representation, gynecologic oncology is not immune from gender disparities. The Society of Gynecologic Oncology is a professional organization of over 2000 physicians, scientists, allied health professionals, nurses, and patient advocates dedicated to the care of patients with gynecologic cancer. As of 2015, 46% of members of the SGO were women, and that number is steadily growing. SGO leadership is also increasingly female – with 2 of the last 3 presidents being women.

Despite the large female representation, gynecologic oncology is not immune from gender disparities. The 2015 SGO practice survey noted that while 22% of male Gynecologic Oncologists held the rank of professor, only 11% of their female counterparts held the title. They also noted that the mean annual salary for male physicians was nearly 150,000$ greater than salary for female physicians.

Given the fact that there is little objective data on sexual harassment in gynecologic oncology, the objective of our study was to evaluate perceptions of sexual harassment and gender disparities among physician members of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

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Fewer Oncologists Have Financial Ties to Pharmaceutical Companies Interview with:
Deborah C. Marshall, MD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? 

Response: Open Payments has brought sweeping change to medicine by introducing transparency to physician relationships with industry. We have seen its impact on oncology through the recent media attention to high-profile physicians in oncology scrutinized for their failure to disclose industry relationships and through the resulting changes to conflict of interest policies of clinical, professional and research organizations in recent months.

We wanted to better understand the impact of Open Payments on individual physician behavior due to the important ethical and policy implications.  We have a cohort of oncology physicians that we followed from the inception of Open Payments to see whether the implementation and increasing awareness of Open Payments have resulted in fewer physicians engaging with industry and has shifted payments towards those considered more appropriate.

The study is important because we evaluate trends at the physician-level to explore the impact of Open Payments on how physicians interact with industry, which is difficult to measure. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: The most important finding is that oncology physician interactions with industry are decreasing, which we interpret as being due to the effect of Open Payments.  Notably, we do not see large shifts in the types of payments yet, which suggests that transparency alone may not be enough to significantly alter behavior.  Moreover, while there has been a decrease in oncology physicians interacting with industry, the number and value of these interactions has not shifted greatly, which should reassure those who were concerned that this type of transparency program would have a negative impact on beneficial industry interactions. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: We are likely going to see the continued impact of Open Payments over time as the downstream effects of transparency become apparent, which warrants ongoing attention to help guide future policy-making.  Engaging stakeholders in these discussions, as well as investigating the impact of industry relationships on how physicians are providing care, conducting and reporting research, and educating future doctors are relevant areas of further research.  Also, there is increasing financial interest in oncology so addressing the risk associated with financial interactions with industry and conflicts of interest are more important than ever. 

Citation: 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting  June 1 2019

Trends in financial relationships between industry and individual medical oncologists in the United States from 2014 to 2017: A cohort study.

Author(s): Deborah Catherine Marshall, Elizabeth Stieglitz Tarras, Kenneth Rosenzweig, Deborah Korenstein, Susan Chimonas; Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY; New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 

Jun 3, 2019 @ 12:45 am

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Older Women With Early Breast Cancer May Have A Choice of Radiation Therapy Alone Interview with:

Manjeet Chadha, MD, MHA, FACR, FASTRO Prof. Radiation Oncology Director of the Department of Radiation Oncology Mount Sinai Downtown 

Prof. Chadha

Manjeet Chadha, MD, MHA, FACR, FASTRO
Prof. Radiation Oncology
Director of the Department of Radiation Oncology
Mount Sinai Downtown What is the background for this study?

Response: Largely, the goal of cancer care among the elderly is to de-escalate therapy searching for a modality that is both an effective treatment and also associated with minimal toxicity.

Approximately, 30% of new breast cancers diagnosed annually are among women older than 70 years of age. Age-adjusted trends note a relatively higher incidence of stage I breast cancer in women between the ages of 70-74 years. For this group of patients, it is imperative that we take a closer look at the evidence-base for our current practice standards, and evaluate opportunities to improve cancer care delivery in the elderly.

Randomized trials have helped arrive at an acceptance of adjuvant endocrine monotherapy in older patients with ER positive, node negative breast cancer. However, in the older patients high rates of non-compliance to tamoxifen secondary to poor tolerance is widely recognized. Emerging data also detail the side effect profile of aromatase inhibitors. Most commonly observed symptoms of arthralgia, reduced bone mineral density, and increased risk of fractures throughout the duration of treatment are important considerations for an older population. At least a quarter of patients on aromatase inhibitors discontinue therapy specifically due to skeletal events and musculoskeletal symptoms. Overall, the side effects of ET contribute to a high rate of non-compliance and negative impact on patients’ quality of life.

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Circulating DNA Can Indicate Melanoma Treatment Failure Interview with:

David Polsky, MD, PhDDermatologist and Director of the Digmented Lesion Service

Dr. Polsky

David Polsky, MD, PhD
Dermatologist and Director of the Digmented Lesion Service

Mahrukh M. Syeda, MS
Research Associate

Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology
NYU Langone Health What is the background for this study?

Response: Several studies of metastatic melanoma patients have demonstrated that measuring circulating tumor DNA (ctDNA) associates with their disease burden and survival.  Generally, patients with detectable pre-treatment ctDNA levels and/or detectable ctDNA at various time intervals after starting treatment have shorter survivals than patients with lower pre-treatment or on-treatment ctDNA levels.  Studies have varied in their methods to detect ctDNA, the thresholds chosen to call a sample positive or negative, and the follow up time point for measurement, if any.

In this study, we examined pre-treatment and week 4 on-treatment plasma samples from patients enrolled in Combi-D, the Phase III, randomized, double-blind trial of the BRAF and MEK inhibitors Dabrafenib and Trametinib, which led to FDA approval of the combination therapy for patients with unresectable stage III/IV melanoma.

Only patients with BRAF V600E or V600K mutations identified from tumor genotyping were enrolled in the clinical trial.

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