Looking at clinical cancer research in the future, Professor van den Bent thinks that enrolment will suffer, until there is better medical control of the pandemic. “Many patients are afraid to come to the hospital, as they realise they have an increased risk. Also, if travel remains restricted this has an impact on medical meetings and relationships with colleagues. This will slow down progress in oncology, despite all modern tele-conferencing possibilities. Meeting colleagues face-to-face simply gives that other dimension,” he said.
“In my view, it will take months to years for the oncology clinical research community to recover from this pandemic, said Professor Faivre-Finn. “Firstly, clinicians and patients may be reluctant to consider clinical trials for the reasons mentioned above. Secondly, funding for cancer clinical trials from government and cancer charities will be reduced due to the impact of this pandemic on the economy. Thirdly, the clinical research focus and funding in the short and median term will be diverted towards COVID-19 research and trials. Lastly and sadly, some cancer clinical trials may not continue, particularly if the recruitment was slow prior to the pandemic.”
In a recent publication2, K. Saini et al stated that in the medium and long term, recruitment delays due to the pandemic would negatively affect drug development timelines with potential delays in getting new drugs to patients.
Professor Christian Simon, a head and neck surgeon from Department of Otolaryngology, University of Lausanne in Switzerland believes that standard of care may also have to be adapted to risk of infection for patients especially in head and neck cancer. For instance, all protocols using trans-oral laser surgery are more difficult to do, since the risk of infection with this technique is greatly elevated.