WHAT’S THIS ABOUT THEN: Researchers are rushing to launch clinical trials of experimental vaccines against the coronavirus, and treatments for COVID-19. But as hospitals brace for an onslaught of critically ill patients and laboratories worldwide are disrupted, researchers have had to shelve clinical trials of therapies for other illnesses.
Eli Lilly recently announced that it would halt enrolment in ongoing studies and delay the launch of new trials. “The COVID-19 situation is dynamic,” a spokesperson for Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche in Basel told Nature. “We are now seeing impacts on clinical-trial continuity in all the regions where we conduct clinical studies.”
At Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, lung-cancer researcher Roy Herbst says clinical trials for cancer have been cut to “almost zero” and are allowed only when a participant is deemed to have exceptional need.
In addition, some cancer researchers found the number of patients enrolling in new clinical trials dropped by more than half during the pandemic peak. This translates to longer development times for cancer drugs which means that cancer patients could suffer.
According to cancer network “many cancer patients rely on clinical trials to receive their oncologic care, but the routine conduct of clinical trials has substantially changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This will likely interfere with research and patient outcomes”.
Cancer Screenings Affected As Well
Screening appointments for breast, cervical, and colon cancers in March 2020 decreased between 86% and 94% compared with average volumes in the prior 3 years. A review of the billing records of 320 million patients released by Komodo Health found that the total number of colonoscopies and biopsies performed dropped nearly 90% by mid-April compared with the same period in 2019. The company’s analysis also found that new colorectal cancer diagnoses were down more than 32% by mid-April, and the number of colorectal cancer surgeries fell by 53% compared with the previous year.
Typically, we see declines in cancer mortality of between 1% and 2% each year. But now, we are starting to see the pandemic’s effects on cancer mortality, which could be to that degree in the other direction, an increase of between 1% and 2% in cancer mortality in 2021, 2022, and 2023,” said Dr. Sharpless. “Right now, I think that is unlikely to happen if we can minimize the impact of the pandemic on our patients and take collective action.”
It’s essential that drug companies get creative and find new ways to reach patients when incomes to cancer drug screening and clinical trials. People will respond to transparent information but with the assault on science by this incompetent administration, drug companies need to both reassure patients and commute the importance of both cancer screenings and clinical trials.
The drug industry and physicians can’t afford to be silent about screenings and trials. They could mean the difference between life and death for patients.