Numerous Organizations Release Cancer Care Guidelines Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

A number of different healthcare organizations released specific guidelines for patients and healthcare professionals on how to best handle cancer care while dealing with the international COVID-19 pandemic.

Several oncology societies and national authorities have issued guidelines on how to manage cancer care during the international coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to a recent article published in The Lancet Oncology.

These organizations produced guidelines at a time where there is worldwide fear that the COVID-19 pandemic will overwhelm nations’ healthcare systems, resulting in further complications for patients in need of cancer care. A shortage of ventilators is seen across the globe, and with operating theaters being turning into intensive care units to treat patients with COVID-19, the need for guidelines and clarity is even greater.

“The pandemic poses several challenges for oncology services,” wrote study author Talha Khan Burki. “Caregivers have to think about how to minimize their patients’ exposure to health-care facilities.”

One organization that acted quickly in issuing general information and links to helpful resources, among other things, is the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO). The information suggests that oncologists prepare to adjust their regular routines at any point.

More specifically, ESMO suggests organizations try bolstering telemedicine services, reducing clinic visits, and whenever possible, switching to subcutaneous or oral therapies instead of intravenous therapies.

“ESMO is taking this very seriously,” Giuseppe Curigliano, a council member of ESMO, said in the article. “They are offering guidance to medical oncologists and giving training on how to manage patients with cancer while this pandemic goes on.”

Next, NHS England lists a number of guidelines on patient management and potential solutions through this difficult time. The group touched upon the vulnerabilities of certain groups of patients, specifically if individuals are infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.

Even more, the group expressed the importance of individual patient decisions being made by a multidisciplinary team. They also suggest that home delivery of medications and prescriptions be made available to help minimize potential exposure to COVID-19 for both the patient and caregiver.

“We are seeing systems adapt to this now, with telephone and telehealth consultations, people receiving laboratory testing at facilities closer to their homes, and some evaluations being delayed,” Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), explained in the article.

Among other pieces of information, the ASCO website features sections with an emphasis on mental health care for patients. These resources are available for practitioners and for enhancing coping techniques. Some suggestions include avoiding information overload and taking frequent breaks from news and social media content related to COVID-19.

The European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) release specific COVID-19 guidelines relating to the potential for transplant activities to be seriously impacted. Specifically, the travel bans imposed on Europe will directly impact transplant activities both in the United States and internationally.

The EBMT guidelines explained that, “due to the rapidly changing situation, access to a stem cell donor might be restricted either due to the donor becoming infected, logistical reasons at the harvest centers in the middle of a strained health-care system, or travel restrictions across international borders. It is therefore strongly recommended to have secured stem cell product access by freezing the product before start of conditioning and, in situations when this is not possible, to have an alternative donor as a back-up.”


Burki TK. Cancer guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Oncol 2020. S1470-2045(20)30217-5. Published April 2, 2020. Accessed April 6, 2020.