The importance of tumor boards relies on the fact that they help doctors find the best cancer diagnosis, treatment, and care plan for an individual patient through multidisciplinary expert teams that get together to discuss a clinical case.
As a matter of fact, tumor boards are nowadays more necessary than ever, particularly in the context of less frequent cancers for which diagnosis and treatments are more difficult.
According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world. Not only that, but the number of new cancer cases per year, as well as the number of cancer deaths, are anticipated to increase in the coming years. 
The aim of this article is to gain an in-depth understanding of tumor boards and their crucial role in health care, pointing out the following aspects: the importance of multidisciplinary tumor boards, the health care professionals involved in the process, the relevance of virtual tumor boards nowadays and, finally, the benefit of using a custom web-based software application to improve the efficiency of these activities.
What Is a Tumor Board?
Carey August, director of Anatomic Pathology at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, defines a tumor board as a group of doctors and other health care professionals from a variety of specialties who meet on a regular basis at the hospital for the purpose of discussing cancer cases and sharing knowledge. 
Tumor boards can be held within specialized hospitals as well as amongst cancer centers across a country or several countries.
In this way, the information shared by various specialists brings more insight into the best possible treatment plan needed by a patient, especially if the cancer case is complicated or rare with few therapeutic options.
Why Are Tumor Boards so Important?
In addition to guiding doctors in complicated or uncommon cancer cases, tumor boards also improve assistance efficiency and patient care through a multidisciplinary approach.
A survey of providers from Los Angeles Women’s Health Study examining breast cancer care in 2011 showed the significance of these boards: the surveyors concluded that tumor boards provide a structure for enhancing quality of care.
In other words, tumor boards allow the implementation of clinical practice guidelines and also play a strong role in capturing cases for clinical trials. In addition, throughout history, boards have become more specialized due to the development of subspecialties, such as medical and surgical oncology and pathology. 
Furthermore, in the case of patients with malignancies, the opinion of different disciplines during tumor boards is crucial since multidisciplinary tumor boards give a substantial advantage in multidisciplinary care to these patients during the evaluation process and coordination in treatment planning.
Nowadays, tumor boards are even more vital due to the types of cancer that are becoming a challenge for health professionals, such as lung cancer: “To date, thoracic oncology care requires a complex multidisciplinary approach to assure the best quality of care.” 
In addition, tumor boards are absolutely essential when it comes to managing rare tumors like sarcomas. High-quality sarcoma care would not be possible without multidisciplinary expert committees.
The result of a tumor board can thus influence decision making and improve cancer control. Various disciplines are involved in these meetings, yet a core team of specialists is required.
What Medical Specialists Participate in a Tumor Board?
The National Cancer Institute explains that, in cancer treatment, the main participants in the tumor board reviews, for a multidisciplinary opinion, are the following specialists:
- A medical oncologist in charge of providing cancer treatment with drugs.
- A surgical oncologist, whose function is to provide cancer treatment with surgery.
- A radiation oncologist, who is responsible for the cancer treatment with radiation. 
Moreover, the involvement of a pathologist and a radiologist is decisive.
The pathologist has extensive medical information about the patient. This expert has performed the biopsy and diagnosis, ordered the relevant molecular tests, and reported, in an appropriate way, the results of these tests to the specialists so that they can define the treatment plan accordingly. 
Certainly, after surgery, the pathologist may give his or her opinion on additional treatments, tests or biopsies, also depending on the patient’s family history.
Additionally, the participation of physicians specialized in each of the organs must be taken into account.
Referring back to the statistics collected by the National Cancer Institute, the importance of specialty is more than necessary in the following cases:
“The most common cancers in the United States (in descending order…) are: breast cancer (breast), lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon and rectal cancer, melanoma (a skin cancer), bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, kidney and renal pelvis cancer, endometrial cancer, leukemia, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, and liver cancer.” 
For this reason, the function of a gynecologist, urologist, dermatologist, or endocrinologist, among others, is essential. Also, it is worth noting the contribution of oncology social workers and nurses in the tumor boards.
These health care professionals should be informed of the particular case in question in order to offer individual counseling and case management, suggest a support group if possible, and get additional services that will help with home care.
The greater the variety of information gathered at these meetings, the greater the improvement in treatment planning.
It is then that the use of technology can help accelerate the review process and support doctors, leading them to be more effective in cancer treatment.
What Is a Virtual Tumor Board?
A virtual tumor board is a remote (web-based) meeting of medical experts specialized in oncology, who discuss cancer cases, get high-quality recommendations, and help define the most appropriate multidisciplinary treatment plan for an individual patient.
What is the procedure like?
Each affiliated team is equipped with a web-based platform with advanced videoconferencing equipment that projects the image and voice of the presenting physician, along with detailed images of the patient’s pathology slides or radiological scans. High-definition images and sound are transmitted via encrypted web-based technology, thus ensuring maximum security and optimal quality. 
In this way, the virtual tumor board leverages the knowledge of multiple experienced oncologists, pathologists, surgeons, radiologists, and radiotherapists with the aim to find the optimal treatment for each patient.
What Are the Benefits of Using Virtual Tumor Board Software?
The huge benefit of a virtual tumor board software is that a web application collects in one common place all the relevant information of a patient so that doctors can manage all tumor board activities without the need of meeting in person.
The use of a virtual tumor board platform avoids the use of unnecessary elements such as shipping physical images, scanning reports, or using too many disconnected sources of data. The idea is to have everything in one single application.
Additionally, the patient’s data can be shared with other cancer centers across regions or countries, or within the same hospital, in an organized and secure way during the meetings.
Further benefits from using this key technological tool are as follows:
- Faster insights and decisions. By having standardized information available on a virtual platform, doctors can make decisions faster than with traditional face-to-face methods.
- Improved efficiency. Accelerated and easier preparation of multidisciplinary team meetings across the healthcare network.
- Time savings. Virtualization of tumor boards through software significantly reduces the time spent when either patients or health professionals need to travel, in particular when multidisciplinary meetings are taking place.
What Kind of Medical Information Is Reviewed in a Tumor Board Meeting?
A medical team will talk about the patient’s health history and cancer case. In addition, members will share detailed information about the tumor, such as radiology scans and slides of the biopsy.
Certainly, doctors need all the information about what is happening with the patient: medical reports, clinical images, CT scans and lab tests, all gathered in one application. After getting all the facts, the board will discuss diagnosis and treatment options.
In this context, a custom software is of great help to streamline the various processes involved in virtual tumor boards.
What Software Solution Does Zlynger Provide for Virtual Tumor Boards?
Zlynger offers an innovative virtual tumor board software to facilitate the discussion of clinical cases by medical experts.
This is web-based application that can be accessed from any computer, without installing additional components.
Zlynger’s virtual tumor board platform permits to share radiology and pathology images, different types of documents (.pdf, Excel, Word, PowerPoint), videos, and patient lists with data forms that can be customized according to the needs of each client.
If you are looking for a flexible, cost-efficient software to support your tumor board activities, Zlynger’s platform can be an ideal option.
Zlynger’s tumor board application can be completely customized according to the specific requirements of each customer.
 Nagi S El Saghir, Keating Nancy and others. (2014). Tumor Boards: Optimizing the Structure and Improving Efficiency. Review of the American Society of Clinical Oncology on the National Library of Medicine. PubMed. Accessed October 2021.