NCCN Guidelines Downloaded 10 Million Times in 2018

Roxanne Nelson, RN, BSN

January 18, 2019

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology were downloaded more than 10 million times during 2018, which is a 27% increase from the previous year, according to the organization.

"This remarkable and growing number of downloads means more patients everywhere are getting the optimal treatment for their cancer, regardless of where they're treated," said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, chair of the NCCN board of directors, who is from the Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine, Missouri.

"Having your cancer treated according to NCCN guidelines is like getting a second opinion from approximately 30 of the world's top experts on your particular cancer type," he said in a statement. "The use of the guidelines also serves the important function of providing critical education for cancer health care providers."

Most of the downloads were from the NCCN website, with a total of 7,409,194 in 2018, as compared to 5,837,509 in 2017, a difference of 27%. Mobile app users downloaded 2,740,263 items, up from 2,211,491 in 2017, a difference of 24%.

Roughly two thirds of downloads (65%) were from users based in the United States; 35% were from users in other countries. These percentages were similar to those in 2017 and 2018.

Created 2 Decades Ago

The NCCN was created more than 2 decades ago as a national alliance to develop and institute standards of care for the treatment of cancer and perform outcomes research. The network began with 13 member institutions. Their goal was to ensure the delivery of high-quality, cost-effective services to cancer patients. They subsequently developed and promoted national programs in education, research, and patient care. The original alliance has expanded to 28 academic cancer centers. The NCCN publishes the peer-reviewed Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

The NCCN guidelines provide up-to-date and evidence-based recommendations for providers on the treatment and management of malignancies that represent at least 97% of all cancer diagnoses, the organization explained. Formulated by multidisciplinary panels of cancer type–specific experts from the institutions that make up the NCCN, the guidelines are available free of charge from their website or through their mobile app.

New Guidelines and Expanding Globally

The NCCN guidelines are continually updated, the organization notes, and this is reflected in the increased number of downloads, it says. As an example, guidelines regarding breast cancer were downloaded more than 600,000 times in 2018, and those for non–small cell lung cancer were downloaded 400,000 times. In 2018, the breast cancer guidelines were updated four times, and those for lung cancer were updated six times.

In addition, several new guidelines were launched in 2018. These focused on previously unmet needs for cancer patients. The new recommendations concerned the following:

  • Management of immunotherapy-related toxicities

  • Cancer for people living with HIV

  • Uveal melanoma

  • Gestational trophoblastic neoplasia

  • Systemic mastocytosis

In 2019, the NCCN plans to launch several more new guidelines, concerning the following:

The organization is also working on expanding the existing guidelines by including information more relevant to the global community. For example, guidelines are being adapted to make them more applicable to healthcare providers treating patients in low- and middle-income countries. Currently, 19 NCCN harmonized guidelines have been adapted for sub-Saharan Africa and seven for Caribbean nations. These guidelines were created in collaboration with local oncologists and government officials and include information on how to achieve the best outcomes in settings of limited resources. They also provide a pathway for the future development of cancer care systems.

"Nearly half of the more than 1 million verified users on our website come from outside the United States," said Robert W. Carlson, MD, chief executive officer of the NCCN, in a statement. "We provide everyone with access by offering our easy-to-understand treatment algorithms free of charge both online and by app, plus translations into nearly a dozen different languages."

Patient Interest Growing

The NCCN also noted that its patient information site experienced a dramatic increase in Web traffic in 2018, with more than 10 million page views. During the past year, updates were made to many of the patient resources, including the addition of new booklets for acute myeloid leukemia; liver, gallbladder and hepatobiliary cancers; uterine cancer; neuroendocrine tumors; and oral cancers.

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