Cancer care during COVID-19: No patient left behind

By Dr. Roy Baynes, chief medical officer

May 21, 2020

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As the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic continues to affect communities around the world, many non-coronavirus patients have had to put their plans, such as elective procedures, on hold. But for many cancer patients, a rain check is simply not an option. Treating active cancer is not elective and must continue – even during an unprecedented pandemic.

As a global patient- and science-focused organization, we are always ready for disaster: Fires, earthquakes, flooding, tsunamis and wars are just a few of the regional obstacles we face on a regular basis. That’s why we are always prepared with business continuity plans that are so critical for a company like ours.

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Still, SARS-CoV-2 has proved to be an unprecedented disruption, calling for an agile response by our company. This has meant, among other important continuity efforts, helping our patients, especially those with cancer, receive care when they need it most.

Dr. Roy Baynes

Chief medical officer

As a leader in oncology research, we are often approached to provide our perspective on the care of cancer patients. This proves true during the pandemic as well. Today, much is unknown, and much is to be learned about the impact of the SARS-CoV-2 infection on cancer patients. In general, we follow the guidance provided by learned societies such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which relies on the benefit-to-risk assessment of cancer therapy and relative risks during this time. These societies are collecting important data, which over time will help fill critical knowledge gaps. We are committed to providing our support.

Importantly, right now, we are laser-focused on the safety of our patients, their caregivers and the health care professionals providing care, and continuation of treatment protocols for our patients.

During this pandemic, we have rapidly pursued new ways to help health care teams treat their patients. Our clinical trials are continuing, driven by our steadfast commitment to patients, and we continue to forge ahead with one of the largest oncology research programs in the industry.

I continue to be impressed with how our colleagues all over the world have risen to the challenge to sustain our trials with remarkable innovation, commitment and resourcefulness, even with the added challenge of social distancing. We are employing specific tactics to address operational challenges during this pandemic, taking meticulous notes to gather learnings, and sharing these best practices so we can all benefit from our experience.

Our colleagues in China led by example with their creativity in managing the initial outbreak in Hubei Province and then across the country. Most sites have already reopened, employees have returned to work and no cancer patient was lost to follow-up during the process. Today, sites are opening new studies and enrolling patients. There are several other countries where we are making similar progress.

Last month alone, we locked approximately 36 databases, presented key new data at professional society meetings, enrolled over 1,000 patients on clinical studies globally and achieved scheduled filings.

We have made so many meaningful inroads to address cancer, which touches the lives of so many. Progress in cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, therapeutics and precision medicine has helped create significant and clinically meaningful reductions in cancer mortality, as published recently by the American Cancer Society. In other words, we have come too far to be stopped by this pandemic.

As a patient-focused company whose mission is to save and improve lives, we are keeping our doors open so we can ensure that no patient is left behind.