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17-08-2020 | Oncology | News | Article

COVID-19 pandemic leads to radiotherapy delays

Author: Shreeya Nanda

medwireNews: Restrictive measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 have led to substantial disruptions to the radiotherapy schedules of patients with cancer, suggests a single-center chart review.

Conghua Xie (Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, China) and collaborators say that “[e]xtensive public health measures […] focused on physical distancing and tight containment” have been “effective in limiting virus transmission and reducing daily new COVID-19 cases across all age groups” in Wuhan.

“However, there are concerns that these public health measures will affect the delivery of other health care services,” they add.

The analysis included data on 209 patients (49.8% men) aged a median of 55 years who had initiated radiotherapy at Zhongnan Hospital prior to the city’s lockdown on 23 January 2020 and had treatment scheduled between 20 January and 5 March.

Nearly half (47.4%) of the patients were receiving adjuvant radiotherapy – most commonly (38.3%) for thoracic cancers, defined as tumors of the lung, breast, and esophagus in this study – and around a quarter each were receiving treatment in the radical (27.3%) and palliative (25.3%) setting.

As reported in a research letter to JAMA Oncology, just over half (53.6%) were unable to continue radiotherapy after Wuhan went into lockdown, mainly due to the inability to return to the city following “the massive human migration (Chunyun) for the Spring Festival that preceded the lockdown.”

Sixty-seven patients were receiving concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and 62 of them stopped treatment, again mainly (n=58) because they could not return to the hospital, but physician’s choice was cited as the reason in four cases. Two patients continued treatment during lockdown and three completed their chemoradiotherapy course.

Moreover, the radiotherapy caseload at the hospital “dropped sharply after the date of lockdown and declined with each subsequent week,” from an average of 188 patients per day before lockdown to 12 per day subsequently, report Xie and colleagues.

And they conclude: “Long-term follow-up data may reveal detrimental ramifications of treatment interruption on the survival of these patients with cancer.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Ltd. © 2020 Springer Healthcare Ltd, part of the Springer Nature Group

17 August 2020: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

JAMA Oncol 2020; doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2783

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