NCI Offers Support for Those Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita
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 and who could be affected by Hurricane Rita. NCI is reaching out to numerous audiences to provide cancer-related information that can be shared accurately and effectively with those who have been displaced due to the hurricanes.
"The effects of Hurricane Katrina have touched the entire nation, and now we must face the impact of Hurricane Rita," said NCI Director Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D. "Through our Cancer Information Service and our partnerships with federal agencies, civilian organizations and relief groups, NCI has helped numerous patients and their loved ones receive the cancer care they need after being displaced. But there is still much work to be done, and I am confident that by working with the entire cancer community, we will meet the needs of our patients."
Coordinating NCI efforts is Mark Clanton, M.D., 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 areas affected by the hurricanes," 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 these national disasters:
- 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 the hurricanes.
- 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 will share information from an ASCO-compiled list of oncology practices in the Southern Gulf Coast region and across the country 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. Physicians 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. Physicians who do not have access to a computer can ask the CIS Information Specialists to post their information on the message board.
- 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 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time.
- 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 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. This Web page, http://www.cancer.gov/hurricane-response-efforts, 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.
- A link to information available from the American Society for Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology (ASTRO), including a list of oncology practices able to care for displaced patients and a toll-free number to connect displaced oncologists with physicians who are treating their patients in other locations.
- NCI's Web page for hurricane relief, http://www.cancer.gov/hurricane-response-efforts, also includes information for the medical and research community affected by Katrina and Rita, including:
- Key NCI program contacts to help NCI research grantees with their inquiries and concerns.
- Assistance from the American Association for Cancer Research for scientists, clinicians, students, and fellows who were orking or residing in the Hurricane Katrina disaster area.
- NIH resources for the biomedical research community, including NIH Guide Notices and other information for investigators and their institutions.
- A link to the American Cancer Society's guide to Coping With Cancer After Katrina. The NCI Web site will be updated with additional resources as they become available.
- The NIH Web site, http://www.nih.gov/about/director/hurricanekatrina/index.htm, provides additional information about NIH's response to Katrina.
- 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 coordinate support efforts. In addition, NCI continues to assess the number of displaced researchers and laboratories and is identifying options for continuing research activities at NCI or at other institutions.
- 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 the hurricanes receive appropriate, ongoing care with as little interruption as possible.
For more information about cancer, visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).