This song was written by the Director as a tribute to the healthcare workers who are selflessly putting the care of patients before themselves in the face of this novel virus every day. The Partnership thanks you and all the essential workers who are risking their lives every day to perform their jobs.
Navigating Life During COVID-19
It has been over 2 months since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the United States. Since then, there has been a dramatic shift in the way we conduct our daily lives and heightened anxiety due to the myriad of unknowns. Many people have lost their jobs due to the inability of organizations to pay their employees, and those who are lucky enough to still be working face struggles with working from home or are risking their lives every day in their “essential” positions. I myself am a student who, along with millions of others, has had to adjust to online learning due to school closures. Many students are at risk of falling behind due to a lack of internet, a computer, books or other resources at home while others, like myself, will most likely end their college or high school careers without a graduation ceremony. This has also become a difficult time for those who suffer from mental illness, as the necessary recommendation of self-quarantine has disturbed our routines and led to loneliness while we distance ourselves from anyone outside of our households. For cancer patients, there is increased anxiety about changes in treatment, clinical trials and access to survivorship needs such as support groups. Most care has been transitioned to phone and video calls for the safety of patients and healthcare workers, while support groups have been cancelled and some clinical trials are postponed for the time being. While this can make living with cancer more difficult, those who serve the cancer community have adapted to continue providing valuable care and resources through other means such as online forums and support groups. I am sure that the question on everyone’s mind right now is when will this really be over? While there is no definite answer right now, we can all help by following the guidance of public health experts and supporting each other during this difficult time. Our way of helping you is by providing updated information on COVID-19 through the form of articles, links to credible websites, and available cancer and non-cancer resources on our website that can help you to continue your routine.
All the best,
Administrator for Community Partnerships
COVID-19 and Cancer: A Caregiver's Perspective
At 6:30 am this morning on my way into Stop & Shop in Narragansett, the talk show host of a popular morning program was fielding questions from shoppers to learn what their shopping experience was like. Were there long lines? Were the shelves stocked? Was there enough toilet paper? Enough Depends? His attempt to be funny with this last question didn’t make me laugh. Instead I winced. For a senior who has come out of retirement twice to pay medical bills for a wife who is in her fourth clinical trial spanning 15+ years, it’s not a laughing matter. As a caregiver, I too have heightened anxieties about contracting the Coronavirus and passing it along to my wife whose immune system is compromised by the chemotherapy treatment that she is on. Once inside the store I quickly realized that while this may have been done with the best of intentions, it was one of the worst places that I could be. Aisles crowded with lines to check out starting at the back of the store next to the dairy section. Instead of keeping a distance of 6 feet, it was one carriage backed up against the next. I found a place to park my carriage and left the store, frustrated at not having had the opportunity to get what I went there for but also feeling that there has to be a better way of implementing these safeguards. For families whose loved one has a life-threatening illness, this is not the time to be making light of it. Later this morning, I learned that the Belmont Grocery Store in Wakefield had approached it differently. Only 25 people at a time were allowed in to shop but an outdoor tent had been set up so that shoppers who were waiting to get in wouldn’t get wet. It made a world of difference to shoppers to be treated in this way. It’s time for all of us to consider, not what is just in our own personal interest but in that of our neighbors too. Our anxieties, our fear of contracting the Coronavirus will be lessened if our experience outside of our home is one in which CDC guidelines are adhered to. This is not a drill. It’s the real thing and our lives and those we love are dependent on it.
Patients with certain cancers are nearly three times as likely to die of covid-19, study says
By: Laurie McGinley
April 28, 2020
Cancer patients — especially those with blood or lung malignancies, or tumors that have spread throughout the body — have a higher risk of death or other severe complications from covid-19 compared with those without cancer, according to a study published Tuesday.
The study, which involved 14 hospitals in Hubei province in central China, where the pandemic emerged, included 105 cancer patients and 536 non-cancer patients of the same age — all of whom had covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The co-authors, from China, Singapore and the United States, found that cancer patients who developed covid-19 had nearly a threefold higher death rate from the virus than the 2 to 3 percent rate estimated for the general population. Cancer patients also were more likely to experience “severe events,” such as being admitted to intensive care units and needing mechanical ventilation, than people without cancer. Risk factors included not just age, but also the kind of cancer, the stage and the treatment.
“These findings suggest that patients with cancer are a much more vulnerable population in the current covid-19 outbreak,” the authors concluded.
Cancer patients are more vulnerable for several reasons, according to the paper’s authors and other experts. Cancer itself depresses the immune system, and cancer patients tend to be older, which is itself a risk factor for serious complications from covid-19. Blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma attack the immune system, reducing patients’ natural defenses and making them prone to dangerous infections.
COVID-19 Diary Day 12: The Challenge of Continuing Clinical Trials
By: Don S. Dizon, MD
April 22, 2020
The impact of COVID-19 on national and international cancer research has been devastating. Across the world, access to cancer services has been affected, and this includes the opportunity to consider a clinical trial for a patient. Major centers have placed a hold on enrollment, national trials have been suspended, and trials about to launch have been delayed. This has been a personal issue for me; I am running a trial on a very rare form of ovarian cancer—clear cell cancers—testing two strategies of immunotherapy.
I have relied on colleagues from across the country to support it. I've had women travel from as far away as South Dakota to participate. When COVID-19 hit the US and erupted on both coasts, several women were already enrolled in the study, a few of whom were traveling from other states. The biggest issue we faced was obvious: The protocols specified that physical exams and treatments should be done in Providence. Would we be able to continue the clinical trial?
Would it be ethical to force these women to make a choice between staying in the trial and receiving treatment—but risking COVID-19 exposure—or dropping out of the trial and forgoing treatment?
As weeks went by, there were additional obstacles. Per state orders, visitors to Rhode Island were asked to quarantine for 2 weeks. Could I realistically ask a woman to come for her treatment and then stay in a hotel room for 14 days afterwards?
The FDA has offered guidance aimed at protecting patients while still allowing them to continue in clinical trials. They suggest that protocols could be modified to include conducting visits via telehealth, for example, but that above all, the integrity of the trial should remain intact.
What Does It Mean to Be Immunocompromised?
Medically Reviewed by Joseph H. Antin, MD
March 31, 2020
Immunocompromised individuals are potentially at a higher risk for severe illness from the coronavirus, or COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). We’re here to help — here is some general information about what it means to be immunocompromised, and how you can protect yourself.
This information is specific to people who are currently or have previously received cancer treatment. If you have additional questions regarding either your current or past treatments, contact your oncologist for more information.
What does it mean to be immunocompromised?
Being immunocompromised means having a weakened immune system, which reduces the body’s ability to fight infections and other diseases. Cancer patients can become immunocompromised (at least for a period of time) due to the disease, as a result of treatment they are undergoing, or a combination of both reasons.
How do I know if I am immunocompromised?
As a general guideline, if you have either undergone a stem cell transplant in the last two years (it typically takes 3-12 months, if not longer, for your immune system to recover from your transplant), have chronic graph-versus-host disease (GVHD), or are currently on ongoing, intensive chemotherapy (or a similar potent drug), you are likely immunocompromised.
FAQs for Cancer Patients on the Coronavirus
Medically Reviewed By: Candace Hsieh, RN; Sarah Hammond, MD; Craig Bunnell, MD, MPH
March 23, 2020
The 2019 novel (new) coronavirus, named SARS-CoV-2, causes the disease COVID-19, a respiratory illness. The spread of COVID-19 is disrupting life — for those who have been infected with the virus as well as those who haven’t — on a global scale.
As with many public health issues, the coronavirus outbreak may pose special risks for some cancer patients. We spoke with Sarah Hammond, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Craig Bunnell, MD, MPH, chief medical officer at Dana-Farber, about some of the specific challenges cancer patients may face at this time.
The situation regarding COVID-19 is rapidly evolving; for the latest information, be sure to seek out reputable sources of information, such as the CDC.
What steps should patients take to protect themselves from the virus?
The advice for patients with cancer is basically the same as for the general population:
Wash hands frequently with sanitizer or soap and water and avoid touching your face as much as possible.
Avoid contact with people known to be infected with the virus or with those showing symptoms of infection.
Avoid crowds and situations where you’re likely to be less than six feet from others. (Airborne spread of the virus occurs when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, releasing droplets that can travel three feet. Maintaining a six-foot distance provides a safety margin.)
Avoid cafeteria-style eating areas where self-serve utensils are shared by customers.
Use public transportation only when necessary and wash hands after using any public facility.
Does vaping make you more susceptible to coronavirus?
By Christina Capatides
March 10, 2020
The CDC's latest National Youth Tobacco Survey found that a staggering 1 in 3 American high school students used some type of tobacco product in the previous 30 days, and for the vast majority of them that means e-cigarettes. Millions of teens have gotten hooked on vaping.
Last summer, that trend led to a disturbing uptick in deaths and serious respiratory illnesses among otherwise healthy young people, in many cases believed to be linked to THC or Vitamin E acetate that individuals were unknowingly ingesting through vaping liquids. And now, experts caution that a vaping habit might also make young people in the U.S. more susceptible to the coronavirus.
In a press briefing on Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio revealed that, despite the fact that older people are generally most at risk of serious illness from coronavirus, one of the current cases in New York is an otherwise healthy 22-year-old man.
"Why is a 22-year-old man stable but hospitalized at this point? The one factor we know of is he is a vaper," de Blasio said. "So, we don't know of any preexisting conditions, but we do think the fact that he is a vaper is affecting this situation."
On Monday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reiterated its guidance that older Americans and people with medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and chronic lung disease are most susceptible to coronavirus. People who are immunosuppressed because they have cancer or they're on a type of medication that weakens their immune system are also more at risk.
Four Things Patients with Cancer Should Know About Coronavirus 2019
By Conor Killmurray
February 26, 2020
The outbreak of the coronavirus disease (now known as COVID-19) that was first reported in Wuhan, China, in 2019, has quickly spread throughout China and to 31 other countries including the United States. It’s no longer a matter of if there is an outbreak in the U.S. but a matter of when, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
“(Patients need to know that) all individuals with weakened immune systems might be at higher risk for complications associated with the virus that causes COVID illness,” Dr. Christina Tan, state epidemiologist, assistant commissioner, New Jersey Department of Health, said in an interview with ContagionLive®, a sister publication of CURE®.
As of Feb. 23, 2020, according to information from the CDC, there were 76,936 reported cases of coronavirus in mainland China and an additional 1,875 cases elsewhere. Globally there have been 2,462 deaths associated with COVID-19, but none in the U.S. As of this writing, there have been 14 cases of coronavirus reported in the U.S. with an additional 39 cases from people returning from high-risk areas, meaning people need to prepare for the chance of a possible outbreak, especially patients with cancer that are already immunocompromised and susceptible to other illnesses.