BACKGROUND: Despite lower cancer incidence rates, cancer mortality is higher among rural compared to urban dwellers. Patient, provider, and institutional level factors contribute to these disparities. The overarching objective of this study is to leverage the multidisciplinary, multispecialty oncology team from an academic cancer center in order to provide comprehensive cancer care at both the patient and provider levels in rural healthcare centers. Our specific aims are to: 1) evaluate the clinical effectiveness of a multi-level telehealth-based intervention consisting of provider access to molecular tumor board expertise along with patient access to a supportive care intervention to improve cancer care delivery; and 2) identify the facilitators and barriers to future larger scale dissemination and implementation of the multi-level intervention.

METHODS: Coordinated by a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, this study will include providers and patients across several clinics in two large healthcare systems serving rural communities. Using a telehealth-based molecular tumor board, sequencing results are reviewed, predictive and prognostic markers are discussed, and treatment plans are formulated between expert oncologists and rural providers. Simultaneously, the rural patients will be randomized to receive an evidence-based 6-week self-management supportive care program, Cancer Thriving and Surviving, versus an education attention control. Primary outcomes will be provider uptake of the molecular tumor board recommendation and patient treatment adherence. A mixed methods approach guided by the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research that combines qualitative key informant interviews and quantitative surveys will be collected from both the patient and provider in order to identify facilitators and barriers to implementing the multi-level intervention.

DISCUSSION: The proposed study will leverage information technology-enabled, team-based care delivery models in order to deliver comprehensive, coordinated, and high-quality cancer care to rural and/or underserved populations. Simultaneous attention to institutional, provider, and patient level barriers to quality care will afford the opportunity for us to broadly share oncology expertise and develop dissemination and implementation strategies that will enhance the cancer care delivered to patients residing within underserved rural communities.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: Clinicaltrials.gov , NCT04758338 . Registered 17 February 2021 - Retrospectively registered, http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/.

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Published in BMC Cancer, v. 21, issue 1, article no. 1262.

© The Author(s) 2021

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Funding Information

This study is supported by the National Institutes of Health through funding from the National Cancer Institute (R01CA240093).

This study was also supported by CTSA award from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (UL1TR000445).

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