Strategies for Referring Cancer Patients in a Smoking Cessation Program.

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Most people who smoke and develop cancer are unable to quit smoking. To address this, many cancer centers have now opened smoking cessation programs specifically designed to help cancer patients to quit. An important question has now emerged-what is the most effective approach for engaging smokers within a cancer center in these smoking cessation programs? We report outcomes from a retrospective observational study comparing three referral methods-traditional referral, best practice advisory (BPA), and direct outreach-on utilization of the Duke Cancer Center Smoking Cessation Program. We found that program utilization rate was higher for direct outreach (5.4%) than traditional referral (0.8%), p < 0.001, and BPA (0.2%); p < 0.001. Program utilization was 6.4% for all methods combined. Inferring a causal relationship between referral method and program utilization was not possible because the study did not use a randomized design. Innovation is needed to generate higher utilization rates for cancer center smoking cessation programs.





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Davis, James M, Leah C Thomas, Jillian EH Dirkes and H Scott Swartzwelder (2020). Strategies for Referring Cancer Patients in a Smoking Cessation Program. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(17). pp. 1–12. 10.3390/ijerph17176089 Retrieved from

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James Davis

Associate Professor of Medicine

Dr. James Davis is a practicing physician of Internal Medicine, and serves as the Medical Director for Duke Center for Smoking Cessation, Director of the Duke Smoking Cessation Program and Co-Director of the Duke-UNC Tobacco Treatment Specialist Credentialing Program.  His research focuses on development of new pharmaceutical treatments for smoking cessation.  He is principal investigator on several trials including a study on “adaptive” smoking cessation and several trials on new medications for smoking cessation. The new medications leverage more novel neurobiological mechanisms - NMDA receptor antagonism, nicotinic receptor antagonism, which impact addiction-based learning and cue response. Additionally, Dr. Davis serves as co-investigator on trials on lung cancer screening, e-cigarettes, minor nicotine alkaloids, imaging trials, lung function trials and others. Dr. Davis leads the Duke Smoke-Free Policy Initiative, is co-author on a national  tobacco dependence treatment guideline, and provides training in tobacco dependence treatment for the Duke School of Medicine, Duke Internal Medicine, Family Practice and Psychiatry residency programs.


Harry Scott Swartzwelder

Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences

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