Current Status of Medical Oncology in Japan—Reality Gleaned from a Questionnaire Sent to Designated Cancer Care Hospitals†

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Abstract

Objective

Medical oncology in Japan has a relatively short history, with specialist certification starting in 2006, resulting in 867 certified medical oncologists as of 2014. Although the national government has appointed 397 Designated Cancer Care Hospitals, little is known about the actual situations of medical oncology services at these institutions.

Methods

Questionnaires regarding the presence of a medical oncology department, the number of physicians in the department, the presence of certified medical oncologists and the degree of the medical oncologists' responsibilities for drug therapies in adults with solid cancers were sent to all 397 institutions between 21 January and 1 May 2013.

Results

The response rate was 68.0%. Among the responses, 39.4% of the institutions had medical oncology departments with a median of three physicians. Most of the medical oncology departments were primarily responsible, as evaluated according to patient number, for the treatment of limited disease categories. The medical oncologists were significantly more responsible for molecular-targeted therapy than for chemotherapy in head and neck cancer or for cytokine therapy in renal cell carcinoma. The wide variety of adverse events associated with molecular-targeted therapy might have enhanced the roles of medical oncologists. As the proportion of hospitals with a medical oncology department increased according to the number of certified medical oncologists working at the institution, cultivating medical oncologists seems to be an urgent task for advancing medical oncology in Japan.

Conclusions

The present study provides fundamental data for the future development of medical oncology in Japan. The present study is to uncover the current situation of medical oncology in Japan.

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