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European Cancer Centers Restructure Care in the Era of COVID-19

What your doctor is reading on Medscape.com:

APRIL 21, 2020 — Delivering cancer care during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven particularly challenging, as minimizing the risk of infection must be balanced with maintaining optimal outcomes.

Healthcare systems and oncologists have had to reorganize standard oncologic care in order to protect vulnerable patients from exposure to COVID-19 as well as deal with pandemic-related issues of equipment and staffing shortages.

A new article now describes how seven cancer centers in Europe rapidly reorganized their oncologic services and are tackling this crisis, as well as offering guidance to other institutions.

This was a major undertaking, to work out a system where patients can still get care but in a safer manner, explained coauthor Emile Voest, MD, medical director of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam.

“Decisions needed to be taken based on availability of personnel, protective materials, and urgencies,” he told Medscape Medical News. “Because every country had its own speed of development of the COVID pandemic, there were different scenarios in all institutions, but all with a common factor of key expertise on how to de-escalate in a safe manner.”

The article was published April 16 in Nature Medicine.

The Netherlands Cancer Institute (the Netherlands), Karolinska Institute (Sweden), Institute Gustave Roussy (France), Cambridge Cancer Center (United Kingdom), Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori di Milano (Italy), German Cancer Research Center (Germany), and Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (Spain) have been working closely together in a legal entity since 2014, and have created ‘Cancer Core Europe’ (CCE). The goal is to “maximize coherence and critical mass in cancer research,” the authors note.

The consortium represents roughly 60,000 patients with newly diagnosed cancer, delivers approximately 300,000 treatment courses and conducts about 1.2 million consultations annually, with more than 1500 ongoing clinical trials. In a joint effort, the centers collected, translated, and compared the guidelines that had been put in place to treat patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cancer treatment is multidisciplinary and involves many specialties including surgery, radiology, pathology, radiation oncology, and medical oncology. Coordinating care among disciplines is a very complex process, Voest noted.

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