NCI Offers Support for Those in Need After Hurricane Katrina
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is committed to helping the many thousands of people who have been devastated by the effects of Hurricane Katrina. NCI is reaching out to numerous audiences to provide cancer-related information that can be shared accurately and effectively with those who have been affected by the hurricane.
"This disaster has touched the entire nation," said NCI Director Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D. "NCI is engaged in a number of opportunities, working within the framework of lead federal agencies and with civilian organizations and relief agencies, to assist cancer patients and medical professionals in the region who have been significantly affected."
Coordinating NCI efforts is Mark Clanton, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director for Cancer Care Delivery Systems. "Our first and foremost concern is the safety and well-being of medical personnel and patients in the area," said Clanton. "We are marshalling all available communication and information resources to accomplish this and are also working to help NIH address the needs of displaced researchers and others."
The following is a summary of resources and ongoing efforts to enable cancer care and research to continue in the face of this national disaster.
- The National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service (CIS), a toll-free call for U.S. residents at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237), provides the latest and most accurate cancer information to patients, their families, the public, and health professionals. The CIS is available to help provide cancer-related information - including referrals to possible support services - to patients and doctors affected by Hurricane Katrina.
- CIS information specialists answer calls Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. local time, in English or Spanish. Callers also have the option of listening to recorded information about cancer 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
- Callers with TTY equipment may call 1-800-332-8615.
- The CIS, working together with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), has established the 1-800-4-CANCER number as an additional contact point for oncologists and cancer patients. The NCI-ASCO collaboration provides displaced cancer patients with a cancer-specific resource to help them find a location where they can receive cancer-related care.
- CIS information specialists can share with callers the ASCO-compiled list of oncology practices in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, and Texas that are open and available to accept patients.
- The NCI-ASCO collaboration also serves as a way for displaced oncologists to connect with oncologists accepting patients from hurricane-affected areas, many of whom are arriving in clinics without any records or knowledge about their treatment. Displaced oncologists can provide contact information where they can be reached, thus enabling the treating physician to better reconstruct the patient's history and help coordinate any emergency treatment with other health care providers.
- For patients who are on NCI-sponsored clinical trials - and doctors who are asked to treat cancer patients who have been on an NCI-sponsored trial - NCI has established a phone number to call, 301-496-5725.
- This line will be answered from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. After hours and on weekends, callers can leave a message and an NCI employee will respond within an hour.
- During the emergency, NCI will send cancer investigational drugs for displaced patients to sites that had not previously participated in the trials, assist with sharing of cancer drug supplies, assist with regulatory issues, and provide protocols to physicians caring for cancer trial patients in emergency situations. Additional details are available through the NCI number.
- NCI's Web site, www.cancer.gov, now includes a Web portal to provide resources for cancer patients, their families, and physicians who have been displaced due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. This Web page, http://www.cancer.gov/katrina, includes links to vital information, including:
- Links for health professionals to volunteer through the Department of Health and Human Services.
- A clinical trials search form to help displaced cancer patients on clinical trials determine what specific trial they are participating in and to help them find an alternative site to continue their treatment.
- The Cancer Information Service and its LiveHelp program, which offers online assistance in English from Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
- A link to ASCO's list of oncology practices, cancer centers, and hospitals.
- The NIH Web site, http://www.nih.gov/about/director/hurricanekatrina/index.htm, provides additional information about NIH's response at this critical time, including the deployment of a medical team to a field hospital location in Meridian, Miss., and the availability of 100 beds for patients who may need to be transferred to the NIH campus.
- Further information from HHS about Hurricane Katrina is available at http://www.hhs.gov/katrina/.
- NCI is working with cancer centers in and around the affected regions to understand their needs at this time, and to provide resources to them as necessary. In addition, NCI is assessing the number of displaced researchers and laboratories, to help determine how their research can be resumed in a different location.
- NCI has identified a number of spokespersons for press inquiries and possible telephone consultations.
NCI will continue to adapt our efforts as needs evolve. NCI, along with NIH and HHS, pledges to continue to inform the public and to ensure that cancer patients directly and indirectly affected by Hurricane Katrina receive appropriate, ongoing care with as little interruption as possible.