After the great Covid-19 pandemic we should expect one small (hopefully) tumor pandemic. Yes, because the coronavirus emergency has had a great impact on cancer prevention and treatment. And the world’s largest oncology congress, the ASCO, of the American Association of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, now in virtual version, could not fail to deal with it.
Giuseppe Curigliano, director of the New Medicines Division at IEO, the European Institute of Oncology in Milan and professor of Medical Oncology at the University, thethe only Italian I will speak, in one of the plenary sessions, the most important of the congress, on the hottest topic: cancer and coronavirus.
Did coronavirus really penalize the fight against cancer?
S. Delayed all screening programs. Those activities that aim to intercept tumors when they start. Probably, in the coming months, when they resume, we will face a greater number of advanced cases, less treatable and less curable.
What happened to cancer and coronavirus patients? You will discuss two studies at Asco: one, Teravolt (coordinated in Italy by Marina Chiara Garassino of the Tumor Institute of Milan on lung cancer) and the other, American, in the acronym CCC2019, on different types of neoplasia.
Having a tumor is a risk factor that makes coronavirus infection more serious. According to Teravolt, patients with lung cancer and coronavirus have had a high mortality rate: one in three died, also because coronavirus has the lungs as its main target. The fact of having tumors, even of other types, may have conditioned access to therapies which (as Siiarti, the Italian anesthesia and resuscitation company) have been reserved for those who had the greatest chance of survival. The management of all other cancers, according to the CCC2019 study, however, depended on objective conditions: it went better where Covid struck less.
But are there already guidelines of scientific societies?
Yes, there are. Although so far it has not always been easy to follow them. The European company (Esmo) was the first, then the ASCO came, the American one. Rules that should identify those patients who need immediate intervention (for example, women with “triple negative” breast cancer, with poor prognosis) and those who can wait a few months.
What do you see for the future?
An enhancement of territorial medicine, the family doctors, as the Anglo-Saxons call them. Our general practitioners. Those who should intercept the signs of disease, send patients to the specialist, but then take them back when they have to follow the therapies.