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Cancer centers nationwide join to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on cancer prevention and treatment

Sep. 24, 2020, 12:48 PM

 

A consortium of 17 cancer centers in the United States, including Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, have come together to better understand the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in delaying cancer detection, care and prevention.

The cancer centers are working together with the National Cancer Institute on the impact of the pandemic on the continuum of cancer care from prevention to survivorship. This work will further examine whether differences in demographics impact cancer prevention and control, cancer management, and survivorship during the pandemic.

“This survey will help us learn from our patients, community partners and those living in our catchment area the challenges they have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Debra Friedman, MD, MS, E Bronson Ingram Chair of Pediatric Oncology and associate director of Community Science and Health Outcomes at Vanderbilt-Ingram. “We need to learn about barriers faced in obtaining access to cancer screening, diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care during this pandemic so that we can help to alleviate such barriers. The Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center encourages that cancer patients continue their therapy and follow up during this pandemic and that those at risk for cancer continue to participate in screening and prevention activities. Our goal is that the advances we have made to improve outcomes in cancer are not lost during this pandemic.”

In addition to Vanderbilt-Ingram, participating cancer centers are: O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center (Alabama), The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute (Michigan), The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center (Iowa), University of Colorado Cancer Center, Stephenson Cancer Center (Oklahoma), UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center (California), Oregon Health & Science University – Knight Cancer Institute (Oregon), Fred Hutchinson/University of Washington Cancer Consortium, University of Virginia Cancer Center, Huntsman Cancer Institute (Utah), Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center (Florida), Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center/Washington University School of Medicine (Missouri), Markey Cancer Center (Kentucky), The University of Kansas Cancer Center and University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Vanderbilt-Ingram is working on this massive collaboration as a direct response to sobering forecasts from the NCI about cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials have warned that the pandemic may have prevented some patients from undergoing much needed screenings and hindered access to procedures that could result in late-stage diagnosis and cancer death. Furthermore, delaying cancer screenings, clinical trials and testing during the pandemic could roll back significant gains made in recent years in reducing cancer deaths.

The coordinating site is the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center in Birmingham, Alabama.

“By coming together, these cancer centers will be able to develop and implement cancer prevention and control strategies to combat the ill effects of the pandemic, particularly among medically underserved populations where the pandemic may have exacerbated their unmet health needs,” said Isabel Scarinci, PhD, MPH, professor of the University of Alabama Division of Preventive Medicine and the O’Neal Cancer Center’s senior advisor for Globalization and Cancer.

Collectively, the cancer centers will conduct surveys among healthy volunteers and cancer survivors nationwide about their health and well-being during the pandemic, with a focus on work and employment, housing/home life, social activities, emotional well-being, physical health, and behavior related to COVID-19 prevention, as well as behaviors such as physical activity and tobacco use that have links to cancer. By complying with current pandemic restrictions, individuals will be contacted by phone, text and social media.

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