NCCN 2021 Virtual Annual Conference

Cancer Care in a Year of Crisis and Innovation

Get Permission

New recommendations to advance racial equity, ways to mitigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care, and ongoing strategies for preventing and controlling human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancers led the conversation at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® (NCCN®) 2021 Virtual Annual Conference, held March 18–20, 2021.

HPV-Associated Cancers

The first of three keynote panels addressed the importance of vaccination, screening, public and professional education, and system/process improvement in preventing cancers common in people infected with HPV.

“HPV vaccination will have a significant impact on reducing cancer incidence in the United States, as well as globally,” said Wui-Jin Koh, MD, Chief Medical Officer, NCCN, who chaired the panel. “We know that vaccination against HPV can prevent most cases of cervical cancer, for example, yet many countries still have low vaccination rates, and misinformation about vaccines is rampant. Beyond cervical cancer, HPV is also causative in many cancers of the anus, vulva, vagina, penis, and oropharynx. Strategies to increase vaccination and otherwise control HPV are vital to cancer prevention.”

Elevating Racial Equity

Representatives from the Elevating Cancer Equity Working Group—convened by NCCN along with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and the National Minority Quality Forum—discussed detailed recommendations for reducing racial disparities in cancer care. People of color—especially Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people—often have higher cancer rates and yet are medically underserved, experiencing later diagnosis and worse outcomes. Presenters Lisa A. Lacasse, MBA, President, ACS CAN, and Elizabeth Harrington, Partner, Public Opinion Strategies, took a deeper look at a recent poll that found 63% of Black and 67% of Latinx patients with cancer, survivors, and caregivers reported negative interactions with their care team, compared with 43% of White patients.1

Adapting Care During a Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic forced oncology professionals to adapt in order to provide ongoing care for patients with cancer. The final keynote session reviewed the COVID-related difficulties cancer centers have faced.

“In a moment of crisis, it is important for us to meet the crisis but then to gain something that we carry forward,” said Timothy Kubal, MD, MBA, Moffitt Cancer Center, Co-Chair, NCCN Best Practices Committee. “As health-care providers, I think we are realizing that many of the things we have held sacred aren’t as important to the patient as we thought. The in-person visit, full physical exam and on-site labs, imaging, and chemotherapy are the way things have been done for a generation, but telemedicine challenges many aspects of such tradition. We need to carry this learning forward to better meet the needs of our patient population….” 


1. Elevating cancer equity: Recommendations to reduce racial disparities in guideline adherent cancer care. Available at Accessed March 29, 2021.