New NCI Research Grant Will Contribute to Improving Equity in Cancer Care

Oncology network map
County-level variation in linchpin medical oncologists based on patient-sharing networks from Medicare claims.

Disparities in cancer care vary greatly across U.S. cities and rural sub-regions when it comes to timely treatment and cancer mortality. Standardizing access to care is key in reducing these cancer health disparities.

A new grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded to Erika Moen, PhD, a member of NCCC's Cancer Population Sciences Research Program, will fund development of a physician network-based measure that will examine patient access to care coordinated across medical, radiation and surgical oncologists. This knowledge will then fuel efforts to reduce rural, racial, and socioeconomic disparities in patient outcomes for several cancers.

“Relatively unexplored is the extent to which relationships between cancer specialists can be characterized and then targeted to standardize access to cancer care, reduce cancer health disparities and improve patient outcomes,” says Moen.

One avenue for increasing access to specialist care is through cancer specialists traveling to a secondary practice location, typically a rural hospital in a community too small to support a full-time specialist. But little is known about the impact of traveling physicians on relationships between physicians and patient access to coordinated cancer care, especially in rural areas—a gap in knowledge that Moen’s project will address.

Results of Moen's work will be used to further develop a network model to improve cancer care. “The network model we create will provide health systems with actionable data on the organization of cancer care providers for their catchment. The model can also help guide interventions and allocate resources appropriately,” says Moen. “We hope to bridge theory and practice by delivering data-driven approaches for addressing inequities and improving patient outcomes.”


Erika Moen, PhDErika Moen, PhD, is a health services researcher whose research program uses network analysis and biostatistics to study variation in cancer care delivery and patient outcomes. Specific interests include evaluating physician patient-sharing networks to examine variation in cancer care delivery, care coordination, and how novel cancer tests and treatments are adopted by clinicians. The ultimate goal of Dr. Moen’s research is to contribute to efforts in streamlining high quality cancer care to optimize patient outcomes.