Nina Buchan outlines key recommendations from the Big COVID/Cancer Debate panel on resuming cancer treatment
As part of the Virtual UK Oncology Forum 2020, The Big COVID/Cancer Debate took place online on 25 September 2020. This fringe meeting, which was chaired by Professor Andrew Wardley, Consultant Medical Oncologist for Breast Cancer at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Medical Director of the National Institute of Health Research/Wellcome Trust Manchester Clinical Research Facility, was the closing event of the 2020 conference. Convened in collaboration with the Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project, the aims of the debate were to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients and services, and to share the learnings with oncologists tackling a backlog of patients requiring treatment for cancer, potentially during a second wave of COVID-19.
Managing COVID-19 risk in patients with cancer
Dr Sheeba Irshad, Senior Clinical Lecturer and Cancer Research UK Clinician Scientist at King’s College London and Breast Cancer Medical Oncologist at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, opened the debate by explaining the conundrum faced by cancer patients and services: treatments for cancer put the patients who need them at greater risk of severe symptoms should they contract COVID-19, but protecting them from COVID-19 risks undertreating their disease. This dilemma has changed the way that treatment for cancer is provided, but it has also led to a backlog of patients requiring treatment. Dr Irshad argued that ‘one size does not fit all’—just as patients with COVID-19 do not experience identical symptoms, patients with cancer do not all respond the same way to COVID-19.