City of Hope President and CEO Robert Stone offered his thoughts on the future of cancer care as a featured speaker in Bloomberg Live’s Bloomberg Prognosis: Reshaping Cancer Care on Oct. 13. During the two-hour global roundtable, Stone and others discussed the current moment of discovery in cancer treatment, as well as the opportunity to address the gap to ensure patients have access to these breakthroughs.
Stone spoke of the promise of innovative treatments and new ways of thinking, including the recognition that cancer is not one but many different conditions, cellular therapy, immunotherapy, gene sequencing and precision medicine. “The science is moving so quickly,” he said.
“We now know cancer is a series of subtypes, not one disease,” said Stone, the Helen and Morgan Chu Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair. “Early genomic screening leads to an understanding of your individual cancer. It allows us to catch cancer when it is easier to treat, and it ensures that we are putting patients on the most appropriate treatment plan. Having the right treatment plan early in the cancer journey will lead to better outcomes.”
However, he pointed out that, while “there is such hope created by these innovations, there is a gap that continues to develop and widen for those who actually have access to the discoveries. We have to focus on how do we get the right treatments to the right individuals at the right time. Because we know that your best chance of a cure is your first chance.”
To that end, he discussed such City of Hope initiatives as AccessHopeTM, which partners with employers (including 20 Fortune 500 companies) to bring the expertise of City of Hope specialists to employees and their family members no matter their geographical location. “We support community oncologists with getting the right treatment plan, with getting genomic information and by making sure that the diagnosis is correct.”
“We have to be as innovative with our delivery methods as we are with our scientific innovations,” he emphasized, pointing out that 1 in 3 people receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime. “Eighty percent of cancer care in this country is delivered in the community setting. We have to bridge the gap so that patients who are seen in the community can get access to these therapies” — such as leading-edge clinical trials — offered at academic and comprehensive cancer centers. “I think this is part of the future and the next frontier.”
He also spoke of City of Hope’s support of the California legislative resolution the Cancer Patients Bill of Rights, which was unanimously passed in August. It delineates certain cancer patient “rights” such as the right to timely access to care, to information delivered in a culturally relevant manner and to have access to clinical trials. “We need to advocate for the cancer patient,” he said. “We need to make sure that the cancer patient gets timely care. We want to make sure your outcome is determined not by your ZIP code, but by where the best treatments are for your particular type of cancer.”
Stone has served in a number of strategic decision-making roles since he joined City of Hope in 1996, culminating with his appointment as president in 2012, CEO in 2014, and as the Helen and Morgan Chu Chief Executive Officer Distinguished Chair in 2021.
He recently was named "Hospital CEO of the Year" by the Los Angeles Business Journal and has been listed in the Los Angeles Business Journal's "Top 500" for five years. He was elected to the Healthcare Leadership Council, a nationwide policy advocacy organization, in 2017.