Cancer treatment procedures such as Immunotherapy or Targeted therapy are effective alternatives in select situations to replace traditional methods and do not suppress the immunity of cancer patients. Immunotherapy also can help to reduce the regular hospital visits and thereby reduce chances of COVID-19 infection.
COVID-19 pandemic has affected every facet of human life which includes providing healthcare for other chronic illnesses. Health treatment for diseases like cancer is also changing every day with the explosion of medical evidence about this coronavirus. The days are gone when patients used to schedule appointments for daycare chemotherapy, like any other routine appointments.
A cancer patient's challenges are manifold. Most patients are concerned about COVID-19 virus exposure when they visit the hospital. Another worry is that chemotherapy will reduce their immunity which will make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection. Chemotherapy patients may need repeated hospitalizations that make them more susceptible to COVID-19 infection. There is always a doubt left in the patient's mind whether or not to delay cancer treatment.
Another question being asked is whether it is possible to increase the interval between each cycle or whether intravenous therapy can be converted to oral therapy to reduce the risk of exposure. Some are also uncertain about whether cancer, or COVID-19, is more harmful and difficult to handle.
On May 28, LANCET Oncology, a leading medical journal published a study on Cancer and COVID-19 infection with some startling hypothesis that could lead to a radical change in cancer care during COVID-19.
First, cancer patients seem to be at an increased risk of death and severe illness because of SARS-CoV-2 infection, irrespective of whether they have active cancer, are on anticancer treatment; The lack of an association between 30-day all-cause mortality and recent surgery, non-cytotoxic therapy or systemic cytotoxic therapy indicates curative surgical resections, i.e. adjuvant chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy with a curative intent and maintenance chemotherapy could continue with extreme caution during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, although this outcome should not be interpreted as a suggestion.
Non-chemotherapy options such as targeted agents and immunotherapy can be investigated in elderly patients or patients with comorbidities at a high risk of contracting the COVID 19 infection. Particularly in selected cancers such as early-stage breast cancer that express the oestrogen receptor and without over-expression of a high-risk receptor such as HER2, targeted agents such as these may be used as an option for active disease control, thereby decreasing the risks of immunosuppressive chemotherapy.
Advances in treatment have meant that certain subsets of lung cancer patients can be treated with a chemotherapy-free option, such as targeted therapy or immunotherapy. As a first-line treatment choice, patients suffering from advanced-stage lung cancer with specific driver mutations may be treated effectively with oral agents.
Some patients with stage four lung cancer can be treated with single-agent immunotherapy with even improved results compared to chemotherapy, while at the same time decreasing the immune suppression related chemotherapy and the corresponding side effects.
To reduce hospital visits during the COVID-19 disease outbreak, prolonged time frames between each immunotherapy session of a drug called Pembrolizumab (six weekly versus the traditional three weekly) has been thoroughly studied and approved by the US FDA. Avail advanced Cancer Care Treatment in Bangalore at Aster CMI Hospital.
History has taught us that innovation and evolution are the only way to overcome adversity. Health care delivery, like all other facets of society, has also risen to the challenge and is striving to maintain optimal outcomes for patients suffering from cancer during this COVID-19 pandemic.