Those six letters force time to stop. I remember vividly the feeling of helplessness after learning about my father’s diagnosis of lymphoma a dozen years ago. Or sitting in a hospital room with another loved one as a doctor patiently tried to explain the treatment options for Stage IV ovarian cancer. The words hung in the air for an eternity.

I’ve had four loved ones succumb to various forms of the dreadful disease. Yet, for all of the anger, sorrow and pain that cancer causes, there are periodic rays of light. Patients stand tall in the face of uncertain futures. Researchers discover new treatment options every day. Ken Burns’ PBS special, "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," profiled many of these gripping stories.

Also in this issue

Throwback Thursday: Revisiting a Hospital for Emergencies at Chicago’s Union Station
Transforming Care Coordination
Urgent Care 2.0: New Entrants Help Spur the Evolution of an Old Model

Equally as important as the cutting-edge research around such things as targeted immunotherapy is the evolution of how hospitals manage cancer care. As contributing writer Geri Aston details in the most recent installment of our Clinical Management series, health systems across the nation are advancing new models of care that aim to create a better continuum of care. Some, like the University of Tennessee Medical Center, have created clinical pathways “designed around cancer type by multidisciplinary teams of clinicians. For several cancers, the center has been able to winnow down to five working days the time it takes from the first call by the patient to approval of a treatment plan.”

At the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, leaders and clinicians are experimenting with a bundled payment initiative with an eye toward understanding if this type of innovation will benefit cancer care.

Recognizing that the total patient experience is also a critical piece of the puzzle, it was encouraging to see news recently that Teen Cancer America linked with Moffitt Cancer Center to build a lounge that lets patients “mix and interact during treatment, addressing the unique psychosocial needs of young adults with cancer.” The organization, an offshoot of the Teen Cancer Trust in England and founded by legendary rockers Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of The Who, also recently announced a partnership to enhance youth cancer programs at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

The past couple of days, I’ve heard Tom Brokaw being interviewed about his memoir, A Lucky Life Interrupted, in which he discusses his battle with multiple myeloma. In an excerpt of the book on the NBC website, Brokaw offers a brief history lesson on the Mayo Clinic, where he serves as a trustee and received cancer care. He sums up what I think is the end game for all hospital leaders: “Simply put, the patient was placed at the center of the care network and all the physicians coordinated their treatment while constantly communicating with one another.”