The European Society for Medical Oncology released key answers to questions about the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as it pertains to cancer care.
The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) released answers to key questions regarding the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in order to help oncologists continue to manage cancer care during the pandemic.
“So far, no systematic reports are available about a higher incidence of COVID-19 infections in patients with cancer,” ESMO wrote. “However, available data indicate that older people are more vulnerable, particularly when there are underlying health conditions such as chronic lung disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and active cancer.”
For patients with cancer, ESMO suggests that the categories at risk include:
Specific risk groups include patients with cancer who have an impaired immune system, such as those with leukocytopenia, low immunoglobulin levels, and long-lasting immunosuppression (i.e. steroids, antibodies).
Currently, ESMO indicated that the impact of immunotherapy on a patient’s risk is a matter of debate. There is no clear evidence as of now that would allow the definition of the specific impact of such drugs on the course of COVID-19.
However, co-infections of the upper airways could increase the risk of an adverse outcome in patients with viral infections, according to ESMO. Additionally, chronic inflammatory and obstructive pulmonary disease may increase the risk of major respiratory complications. Regardless, patients have been advised to discuss their individual risk profiles with their treating oncologist.
Patients with cancer should pay special attention to:
ESMO recommends that patients with cancer be able to recognize the first sign of COVID-19 infection, such as fever, coughing, sore throat, difficulty breathing, muscle pain, and tiredness. Moreover, patients should contact their doctor or national health care services when returning from a risk region, after contact with an infected person, or when feeling symptoms related to COVID-19.
For cancer healthcare professionals, ESMO recommends to:
“Many therapeutic approaches are being currently tested, including anti-proteases used in HIV (lopinavir/ritonavir), an anti-malaria drug (chloroquine), a new nucleotide analog (remdesivir), and a monoclonal anti-IL6 antibody (tocilizumab),” ESMO wrote. “Until such treatment and preventive measures are available, the researchers emphasize the importance of the full range of strategies for controlling SARS-CoV-2 – as for the ‘highly effective global public health response’ that led to containment of the SARS epidemic.”
ESMO. What should medical oncologists know about COVID-19? ESMO website. Published 2020. esmo.org/newsroom/covid-19-and-cancer/q-a-on-covid-19. Accessed March 25, 2020.