Journal Article From Fox Chase Clinicians Offers Advice on Managing Cancer Care During COVID-19 Pandemic

PHILADELPHIA (March 30, 2020)—A group of Fox Chase Cancer Center clinicians featured their expertise in an article that advised physicians on the best approach to take with patients who have been diagnosed or are currently under treatment for cancer during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The article was published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Oncology specialists as well as other providers regularly involved in the diagnosis, active treatment, and longitudinal follow-up of cancer patients must consider how to 1) balance a delay in cancer diagnosis or treatment against the risk for a potential COVID-19 exposure, 2) mitigate the risks for significant care disruptions associated with social distancing behaviors, and 3) manage the appropriate allocation of limited health care resources in this unprecedented time of health care crisis,” the authors wrote.

The authors note that COVID-19 disproportionally harms the elderly and those with comorbidities, so a current or past cancer diagnosis appears to place infected patients at substantially increased risk. That fact is borne out by first reports from China, where the virus originated. Cancer patients in China with COVID-19 infections had a higher risk of “significant” morbidity, including requirements for support with ventilators or death.

The article’s authors were Alexander Kutikov, MD, and Robert G. Uzzo, MD, of the Department of Surgical Oncology; David S. Weinberg, MD, MSc, of the Department of Medicine; Martin J. Edelman, MD, and Richard I. Fisher, MD, of the Department of Hematology/Oncology; and Eric M. Horwitz, MD, FABS, FASTRO, of the Department of Radiation Oncology.

“Many solid tumors (such as lung or pancreatic cancer) and some hematologic cancers (such as acute leukemia) require immediate diagnosis and treatment. However, other common early-stage cancers (breast, prostate, cervical, nonmelanoma skin) may not,” the authors wrote.

“The quality of evidence in some cases is inadequate to support ‘one size fits all’ statements applicable to every patient. However, experienced oncology providers should feel confident exercising judgment regarding which patients need to initiate or continue treatment owing to their tumor’s more aggressive biology versus those who can tolerate a delay.”

Click here to read the full text of the article, “A War on Two Fronts: Cancer Care in the Time of COVID-19.”

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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