SEATTLE – July 25, 2014 – The Puget Sound Business Journal has recognized Veena Shankaran, M.D., a medical oncologist and health economist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as one of 40 individuals under age 40 who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership within their field. Shankaran will accept the award, now in its 16th year, at a PSBJ reception honoring all 40 recipients later this fall.
Shankaran, who has appointments in the Clinical Research and Public Health Sciences divisions at Fred Hutch, specializes in caring for patients with gastrointestinal malignancies. She’s also an investigator in the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research (HICOR), where she studies health economics and comparative effectiveness with a focus on patterns of care and risk factors for financial hardship among cancer patients.
Her work is motivated largely by a recent HICOR study that found close to 40 percent of colon cancer patients in the western Washington / Puget Sound region have experienced major financial hardship related to their diagnosis and treatment. So-called “financial toxicity” is, unfortunately, an issue that often goes unassessed and unmeasured until patients already face serious financial challenges.
“Beyond the critically important step of understanding the risk factors for financial toxicity in our patients, I recognize the importance of developing strategies to mitigate this toxicity,” Shankaran said. “One such strategy includes educating patients about the financial impact of cancer and providing access to copayment assistance, social work resources and financial counselors.”
Shankaran recently received a Career Development Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s Conquer Cancer Foundation. She and her HICOR colleagues are now working on one of the largest population-based studies of financial toxicity among colon cancer patients starting from the time of diagnosis.
Shankaran sees patients at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the cancer treatment arm of Fred Hutch, UW Medicine and Seattle Children’s, and is also on the faculty of the Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Washington School of Medicine.