Weekly Updates on Coronavirus (COVID-19) from Lung Cancer Groups

LUNGevity and four other lung cancer organizations are issuing regular joint statements on coronavirus to help people understand what is known about the disease, find reliable sources of information, and be aware of its potential impact on vulnerable populations, including those with lung cancer.

Also see our "Special Edition: COVID-19 and Lung Cancer" newsletters:  May 15   |   May 1   |   April 17    |    April 10   |    April 3


COVID-19 updates

This past week marked a grim milestone in the United States, as we officially surpassed 100,000 deaths from COVID-19. Our groups continue to recommend that the lung cancer community adhere to best practices to limit exposure, including wearing masks/face coverings when out in public, frequent handwashing, ongoing social distancing, and limiting nonessential travel.

Normally at this time, representatives from our respective organizations would be in Chicago for the annual American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting, for which over 40,000 oncology professionals gather to share best practices in clinical oncology research and academic and community practice. In light of the ongoing pandemic, ASCO 2020 was held as a virtual conference.

Note: There are many exciting updates and recent FDA drug approvals in the lung cancer space. These are being shared via other channels through our respective organizations and will not be covered here since our goal is to focus exclusively on relevant COVID-19 updates for the lung cancer community.

In this week’s update, we will cover three topics:

  1. COVID-19 presentations from ASCO 2020
  2. Advocacy groups participating in IASLC “Lung Cancer Considered” podcast
  3. Advocacy groups collecting data for AACR COVID-19 and Cancer conference

COVID-19 presentations from ASCO 2020

Previous reports have suggested that lung cancer patients infected with COVID-19 have worse outcomes. During ASCO 2020, we heard updates from two different registry efforts focused on tracking cancer patient outcomes:

  1. The COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) registry is tracking outcomes across all cancer types. The major finding from this study is that patients with actively progressing cancer were five times more likely to die within 30 days of diagnosis with COVID-19 compared to patients who were in remission or had no evidence of disease. As ASCO President Dr. Howard A. Burris III states, "For people with cancer, the impact of COVID-19 is especially severe, whether they have been exposed to the virus or not. Patients with cancer are typically older adults, often with other underlying conditions, and their immune systems may be suppressed by the cancer, or due to chemotherapy, radiation, or other treatment.” These data are consistent with previous early reports and suggest that patients with active cancer are uniquely vulnerable and face worse outcomes upon infection with the virus that causes COVID-19.
  2. A second registry effort, called TERAVOLT (for Thoracic cancERs international coVid 19 cOLlaboraTion), is specifically tracking outcomes for lung cancer patients infected with COVID-19. For this study, 400 patients were included in the analysis, the majority of whom had stage IV cancer. Among this cohort, 141 patients died of COVID-19, with 334 of the patients requiring hospitalization. Those patients receiving chemotherapy, either alone or in combination, within three months of a diagnosis of COVID-19 fared the worst, with a significantly increased risk of dying (64%) compared to those who did not receive chemotherapy.

Take-home message from these studies: COVID-19 presents a unique threat to all cancer patients, especially those with lung cancer. Various international efforts are underway to understand these risks and what it means for patients and their cancer care. As states continue to reopen, it is important not to let your guard down and to maintain all the precautions you have been taking over the past few months. This virus has not gone away and it is important that you and your loved ones take appropriate steps to minimize exposure.

Advocacy groups participate in IASLC “Lung Cancer Considered” podcast

Authors of these weekly updates, including Dr. Jan Baranski, Janet Freeman-Daily, Dr. Amy Moore, and Dr. Upal Basu Roy, recently participated in the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) “Lung Cancer Considered” podcast. They were joined by Jill Feldman, Dr. Alice Berger, Dr. Christine Lovly, and Dr. Brendon Stiles to discuss impacts of COVID-19 on lung cancer research. Despite the obstacles created by the pandemic, lung cancer research marches on and we think you will be encouraged and inspired by the discussion. Listen to the podcast here.

Advocacy groups collecting data for AACR "COVID-19 and Cancer" conference

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on cancer care, AACR is convening a special conference focused on the presentation of emerging data in basic, clinical, and epidemiologic research related to COVID-19 and cancer. Lung cancer patients are especially vulnerable to developing a serious case of COVID-19. In order to provide the community accurate, up-to-date, and curated scientific information on COVID-19 and cancer, lung cancer patient advocacy groups have come together to support our community through joint advocacy updates.

We need your help and your perspective! We are inviting you to participate in this 10-minute survey to capture your concerns about COVID-19, and whether you found this collaboration and the updates useful. The survey will close at midnight Pacific Daylight Time, Friday, June 5, 2020, to allow us to prepare abstracts for submission to the AACR "COVID-19 and Cancer" virtual meeting.

If you prefer, you can copy and paste this link in your web browser to take the survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LC_JT_Updates

The data we collect from the survey will also be shared openly across all advocacy groups once the conference is completed. Thank you for your help and for providing us your perspective.

Resources and websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. COVID-19: What People with Cancer Should Know-
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Center
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer And COVID-19 (an important perspective for cancer patients)
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
    • Directory of state department of health websites  
    • Directory of local health department websites  
  8. American Medical Association resources for healthcare providers.

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

As different states are relaxing shelter-at-home orders and businesses are planning to reopen, it is important to understand the true extent of COVID-19 infections: both active infections (patients who are currently infected) and past infections (patients who were infected in the past and have now recovered).

Currently, active infections are tested using a nasal swab test. The FDA also recently approved a rapid antigen detection test to identify actively infected cases.

Past infections are identified through serological (blood) tests that detect antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The following infographic shows the differences between the tests used for COVID-19.

Infographic - Types of coronavirus testing

However, interpreting the results of the test may be tricky. Also, the results depend on various  factors:

  1. Patient-specific factors: Did the patient mount a robust immune response? How long do detectable antibodies last?
  2. Test being used: Different antibody tests may have different sensitivityHow well the test can detect the disease in people who actually have the disease and specificityThe percentage of people who test negative for the disease among a group of people who actually do not have the disease. We are still learning what this means for different tests and how to interpret the results.
  3. What a test is measuring: Some tests measure only one type of antibody (IgG) while others measure IgM and IgG. Does this mean one kind of test is better than the other? We still do not know.
  4. What the test results mean: Does a positive test result mean that a person is immune to reinfection by SARS-CoV-2? If so, for how long?

For example, Amy (in the San Francisco Bay Area) got sick on January 23, 2020, and her antibody test from May 15, 2020, was negative. Upal (in New York City) got sick on March 14, 2020, and his antibody test from May 4, 2020 was positive. Could this be because Amy didn’t produce enough antibodies? Because the antibodies decrease with time? Because the test was not done correctly? Or could it reflect differing test sensitivity?

To answer these types of questions will take time. In case you want to learn more about the issues with interpreting test results, here is a helpful article.

In this week’s update, we present a short video (below), and transcript of the discussion, with Nicolas Vabret, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Vabret, a virologist/immunologist, answers important questions, such as:

  1. What type of an immune response does the body mount against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19?
  2. How can we detect if a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2 now?
  3. How can we detect if a person was infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the past but has now recovered?

Resources and websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. COVID-19: What People with Cancer Should Know-
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Resource Center
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer And COVID-19 (an important perspective for cancer patients)
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
    • Directory of state department of health websites  
    • Directory of local health department websites  
  8. American Medical Association resources for healthcare providers.

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

The authors of this weekly advocacy update are all scientists (nerds) and so before we get to this week’s update, indulge a little humor: “May the Fourth be with you!” Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:

As of May 2, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,062,446 cases of COVID-19 and 62,406 COVID-19-associated deaths. Many states are beginning to loosen restrictions and reopen certain businesses.  It is worth noting that in Georgia, the first state to reopen, the shelter-in-place policy has been extended through June 12, 2020, for the most at-risk populations, including those over age 65; those in nursing homes or long-term care facilities; those with chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma, severe heart disease, class III/severe obesity, diabetes, liver disease, chronic kidney disease and undergoing dialysis; as well as those who are immunocompromised.

On Friday, May 1, 2020, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted emergency use authorization for the antiviral drug remdesivir for the most severely ill COVID-19 patients. While this is an encouraging development, we must provide a word of caution in that we still do not have effective treatments for broad use by the general public or a vaccine.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) shifted its annual meeting to a virtual format and broke it into two separate events. The first was held on April 27 -28, 2020. In this week’s update, we will discuss some of the information presented during this meeting and what it means for the cancer community. In particular, we will focus on answering three questions:

  1. What are the implications of COVID-19 for my personal cancer treatment?
  2. How do I make sense of contradictory COVID-19 information?
  3. What are the impacts of COVID-19 on cancer research?

What are the implications of COVID-19 for my personal cancer treatment?

Since we first started providing these updates in early March 2020, there has been growing evidence that lung cancer patients infected with COVID-19 have worse outcomes. During the AACR plenary session on “COVID-19 and Cancer,” an international team led by Dr. Marina Garassino presented early data for TERAVOLT, a global registry collecting characteristics and outcomes of patients with thoracic cancers affected by COVID-19. They reported a disturbingly high mortality rate of 34.6% (66/191) among patients with thoracic cancers.

As research advocates serving the lung cancer community, we recognize that these data are alarming. The immediate implications of these results fall in line with what we have been advising those who fall in high-risk groups, including lung cancer patients: continue to practice social distancing when possible, wear protective face coverings when out in public, wash hands often, and minimize travel to essential needs only (medical appointments, procuring groceries or prescriptions).

Our April 20, 2020, update discussed the increasing role of telehealth in management of patient care, and our April 27, 2020, update focused on the guidelines issued by leading medical organizations and societies. Our March 30, 2020, update included impacts on clinical trials—as states begin to reopen, some trial sites are resuming enrollment. Thus, it remains imperative that you talk with your treatment team about your individual treatment plan.

Indeed, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors and scientists are reevaluating treatment schedules and the “usual way of doing business.” One example is the recent April 28, 2020, FDA approval for a new dosing regimen for the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab. This approval is based on data presented at the 2020 AACR Virtual Meeting.

Dr. Jacob Sands, a leading lung cancer medical oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, provides a nice discussion on the importance of individualized lung cancer management in the COVID-19 era.

How do I make sense of contradictory COVID-19 information?

We recommend that you follow information from trusted and medically vetted websites such as the CDC, the WHO, and the IASLC. Information on how to access these websites is included in the Resources and websites section below.

Our understanding of COVID-19 is evolving rapidly. This means that what was true a month ago may not be true under current circumstances, as doctors and scientists generate more evidence. You might hear contradictory information from different sources or at different times. As an example, the antimalarial and autoimmune disease drug hydroxychloroquine was shown to have positive effect in COVID-19 patients in early studies. However, further study with more patients showed hydroxychloroquine was not as effective as it was initially thought to be, and highlighted the fact that hydroxychloroquine comes with a range of side effects that make it unsuitable for use in patients with heart issues. This is a great example of the scientific method whereby a finding or a hypothesis changes as new information is gathered.

We also caution on how one should interpret information shared across media and press during these times. COVID-19 is a global pandemic and is affecting the oncology community everywhere in the world. Given the urgent global need for information on effective COVID-19 management, healthcare providers are sharing preliminary information as quickly as possible with the goal of learning from each other’s experiences. This means that not all information shared publicly will have the same level of evidence as formal clinical trials. The information is important and valuable, but it is not yet validated in large groups of patients.

When judging what you read from publicly available sources, we suggest you use the Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) Pyramid as a guiding framework

Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) Pyramid, a guide for judging scientific information

EBM Pyramid and EBM Page Generator, copyright 2006, Trustees of Dartmouth College and Yale University. All Rights Reserved. Produced by Jan Glover, David Izzo, Karen Odato and Lei Wang.

Higher quality of evidence takes longer to get published to allow for collecting larger amounts of data, statistical analysis, and scientific peer review. Most of the literature currently available on COVID-19 and lung cancer are case reports and studies of a small number of patients in a few institutions.  COVID-19 has not been around long enough to enable large, formal clinical trials about its impact on lung cancer treatment. If you have questions about whether published COVID-19 findings might affect your lung cancer treatment, please discuss your individual situation with your treating physician.

What are the impacts of COVID-19 on the state of academic cancer research?

Most academic research institutions, including universities and hospitals, have shut down most research labs and closed enrollment in some clinical trials to accommodate government-imposed shelter in place mandates and protect researchers’ lives. Only critical research, such as maintaining cell lines or animal models for preclinical research and some clinical trials with strong evidence of effectiveness, is being allowed to continue. These are institutionally mandated restrictions that have been put into place to protect university staff. Some researchers who are also clinicians have been deployed to assist with COVID-19-related clinical duties. Bench scientists who are not involved with clinical duties have been advised to work from home in activities such as grant and manuscript writing, and data analysis.

Funders of academic lung cancer research in the US such as the National Cancer Institute, the Department of Defense, and private non-profits (e.g.,  LUNGevity Foundation, GO2 Foundation, Lung Cancer Research Foundation, Lung Cancer Foundation of America) have all made concessions to accommodate the needs of the scientific community and best support investigators during this critical time, while trying to minimize any delays in lung cancer research. Concessions include:

  • Extended deadlines for grant applications
  • Allowing the use of grant funds for salaries and stipends even when researchers are not working in the laboratory
  • Flexibility regarding project extensions and accommodating unanticipated costs such as loss of animals and chemicals bought for experiments
  • Allowing grantees more time to report on awards after an award is completed
  • Numerous flexibilities regarding expenditures of funds, such as money already spent in conferences and travels

Resources and Websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. COVID-19: What People with Cancer Should Know
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer and COVID-19 (an important perspective for cancer patients)
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  8. American Medical Association resources for healthcare providers

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

As of April 24, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 895,766 cases of COVID-19 and 50,439 COVID-19-associated deaths. As the number of cases continue to rise, the importance of maintaining social distancing and following shelter in place/quarantine orders is central to flattening the COVID-19 curve. 

In this week’s update, we address how different professional societies/organizations are addressing lung cancer screening and treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic. As described in the National Academy Press, the mission of the professional societies is primarily educational and informational. Their influence flows from their continuing and highly visible functions: to publish professional journals, to develop professional excellence, to raise public awareness, and to make awards. Through their work, they help to define and set standards for their professional fields and to promote high standards of quality through awards and other forms of recognition.

In this week’s update, we provide you with a brief summary of what different professional societies are saying about COVID-19 and lung cancer treatment. These consensus statements are a testament to the way the global oncology community is working together to ensure that lung cancer patients continue to get the best care possible. The following have been included in today’s update based on availability of information.

CHEST - American College of Chest Physicians
ASCO - American Society of Clinical Oncology
ESMO - European Society for Medical Oncology
ATS - American Thoracic Society
NCCN -National Comprehensive Cancer Network
ASTRO - American Society for Radiation Oncology
ESTRO - European Society for Radiotherapy & Oncology

Question 1: How are doctors managing lung cancer screening during COVID-19?

The recent consensus statement from CHEST states that it is appropriate to defer enrollment in lung cancer screening and modify the evaluation of lung nodules due to the added risks from potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2 and the need for resource reallocation.

This means that for individuals who have not yet initiated screening, they should wait to be screened.

In those individuals where nodules are detected through a low-dose CT (LDCT) scan, the consensus statement suggests follow-up and nodule management should depend on the size of the nodule, availability of local facilities, prevalence of COVID-19 in the region, and patient-specific factors (presence of other serious health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.

Question 2: What factors are organizations/societies taking into account when deciding how to treat lung cancer patients?

According to Schrag and colleagues,

oncology care generally falls into four categories.

  1. Care that is not time sensitive, can be delivered remotely, or both.
    This includes survivorship and surveillance visits for patients who have completed cancer treatment (for example, a patient who has completed treatment and has no evidence of disease).
  2. Care that cannot be delivered remotely but for which treatment omission or delay has a marginal effect on quality or quantity of life.
    The big question here is: does the risk of COVID-19 exposure outweigh the benefit of the treatment? Examples that fall into this category include:
  • Delaying systemic chemotherapy or reducing the number of cycles of chemotherapy for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer
  • Delaying surgery by providing neoadjuvant chemotherapy
  • Reducing the number of radiation therapy visits
  1. Treatment delay will have a moderate but clinically important adverse influence on quality of life or survival.
    This includes using treatments that are less harsh than the original treatments, to minimize hospitalization or manage side effects during the time of COVID-19.
  2. Treatment that has the potential to cure and/or cannot safely be delayed. This includes treatment of small cell lung cancer.

It is important to note that recommendations should be adapted to reflect the status of the patient and available facilities.

Question 3: What are the consensus recommendations for lung cancer surgery?

ATS has proposed the use of a three-phase framework to decide how to proceed with lung surgery. It defines three phases of hospital status based on:

  • the prevalence of COVID-19 patients within the hospital
  • availability of hospital resources, and
  • the rate of change (in terms of increasing prevalence of infections and resource depletion)

Each phase has a compass statement that is meant to give additional direction on how to manage number of lung surgeries, based on perceived risk to patients and hospital staff.

Phase 1

Phase 2

Phase 3

  • Hospital resources intact (e.g. ICU beds, ventilators, clinicians, Personal Protective Equipment available for all doctors)
  • COVID-19 trajectory not in rapid escalation phase
  • Many COVID-19 patients
  • Resources limited (e.g. ICU beds, ventilators, clinicians, PPE),
  • COVID trajectory within hospital in rapidly escalating phase
  • Hospital resources are predominately routed to COVID-19 patients
  • Resources critically limited/exhausted

Compass statement: Surgery restricted to patients whose survivorship likely to be compromised by surgical delay of 3 months

Compass statement: Surgery restricted to patients likely to have survivorship compromised if surgery not performed within next few days

Compass statement: Surgery restricted to patients likely to have survivorship compromised if surgery not performed within next few hours

Specific treatment decisions should be made by the patient and their treating physician, keeping in mind the framework discussed in question 2.

Question 4: What are the consensus recommendations for the use of radiation for lung cancer treatment?

The ASTRO-ESTRO consensus statement follows a similar approach to the ATS statement and takes into account the local and regional scenario of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a risk-mitigation pandemic scenario where radiotherapy resources remain available, efforts should be made not to compromise the prognosis of lung cancer patients and guideline-recommended radiation therapy should be practiced. Postponement or interruption of radiation therapy of COVID-19 positive patients should be considered to avoid exposure of cancer patients and staff to an increased risk of COVID-19 infection.

In a severe pandemic scenario characterized by reduced resources, if patients must be triaged, important factors included potential for cure, relative benefit of radiation, life expectancy, and performance status.

Specific treatment decisions should be made by the patient and their treating physician, keeping in mind the framework discussed in question 2.

Question 5: What are the consensus recommendations from medical oncology associations and professional societies?

The three professional societies/organizations (ASCO, ESMO, and NCCN) are aligned in their recommendations for lung cancer patients. All societies note that the risk of COVID-19 must be balanced against the risk to the patient of lung cancer progression, which in most cases still represents the highest risk of mortality in lung cancer patients. Individual clinical judgment is necessary. The recommendations provided by these societies cannot provide absolutes for alternate strategies during the COVID-19 outbreak. Specific treatment decisions should be made by the patient and their treating physician, keeping in mind the framework discussed in question 2. It is important to note that most of these recommendations would not normally be considered standard of care or optimal but are reasonable under these unusual circumstances in which minimizing visits and potential exposure has become a priority.

NCCN further suggests that entry points to the health care system should feature screening of patients and providers (i.e., questionnaire, temperature-based screening, standard and rapid COVID-19 testing). If resources are sufficient, screening of visitors who can accompany patients is reasonable, although many institutions have visitation restrictions to facilitate social distancing.

Question 6: How do these changes in lung cancer care impact shared decision-making?

Shared decision-making is a process in which patients and doctors work together to make decisions and select tests, treatments, and care plans based on clinical evidence that balances risks and expected outcomes with what individual patient value. The consensus statements from all the professional societies urge doctors to have candid discussions with their patients and to take into account patient preferences and values when making decisions for screening and treatment.

Question 7: Should lung cancer treatment be modified if patients also have COVID-19?

Physicians don’t have much data to help guide treatment decisions for lung cancer patients who also have COVID-19. To gather this data, the global lung cancer community has come together to develop the TERAVOLT registry. The registry is collecting information on patients with thoracic cancer infected with COVID-19 regardless of therapies administered. More than 100 physicians worldwide are participating, and the number is growing. Currently, patients cannot deposit their data into the registry themselves. If you have or had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and would like your data included in the registry, talk to your doctor about joining the TERAVOLT registry.

Resources and Websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. COVID-19: What People with Cancer Should Know
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer and COVID-19 (an important perspective for cancer patients)
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  8. American Medical Association resources for healthcare providers

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

As of April 18, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 661,712 cases of COVID-19 and 33,049 COVID-19-associated deaths. A recent study conducted by researchers at Stanford University suggests that this number is an underrepresentation of the total number of infected individuals. We must urge caution with interpretation of this study, which is still undergoing peer review. Some are interpreting the findings to mean we should accelerate loosening of social distancing policies across the country. However, researchers still do not know if the presence of antibodies confers protection or how long such immunity might last. Further, in the absence of any effective therapeutics or a vaccine, local flareups are still a risk, as has been witnessed in other countries. Social distancing is working and should be maintained for now.

In this week’s update, we address the following important topics:

Role of telehealth in the era of COVID-19

  1. What is telehealth?
  2. How is the use of telehealth changing during the COVID-19 pandemic?
  3. What are some of the barriers to broad uptake of telehealth during the current crisis?
  4. How do I know if I am eligible to obtain telehealth services?

Impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer clinical trials

  1. How is the FDA allowing the use of telehealth for lung cancer clinical trials?
  2. If a patient is receiving their drug through a pharmacy at the clinical trial site, can they now receive the drug through home delivery without having to change the protocol?
  3. If a patient is receiving a drug given through infusion, can they now receive the clinical trial treatment through home infusion?

Role of telehealth in the era of COVID-19

1. What is telehealth?

The terms “telehealth” and “telemedicine” are used interchangeably to describe using telecommunications technologies to deliver health care. It includes a variety of services that deliver health care, public health, and health education, and ranges from methods as simple as telephone calls and email to live video, mobile apps, remote patient monitoring and uploading scan images. The Center for Connected Health Policy (CCHP) provides an excellent overview of telehealth here.

2. How is the use of telehealth changing during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal and state policies are rapidly adapting to allow for greater utilization of telehealth services. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have created some useful fact sheets highlighting various policy changes, including this one summarizing Medicare telemedicine services and this one addressing sweeping regulatory changes to meet patients’ needs during this time. Private health insurance companies are also modifying their policies to enable greater use of telehealth. CCHP is maintaining an updated list of COVID-19 telehealth coverage policies.

3. What are some of the barriers to broad uptake of telehealth during the current crisis?

The challenge with adapting telehealth policies in real-time to address an unfolding and unprecedented public health crisis is that, in a pre-COVID-19 world, federal and state policies varied widely in how telehealth services were provided and covered. Most of the current challenges relate to regulatory and reimbursement issues, including licensure requirements. Even as the popularity of telehealth among patients grows, private healthcare payers have been slow to embrace the technology. The Federation of State Medical Boards is maintaining an updated list of states currently waiving telehealth licensure requirements.

The “digital divide” is also a barrier to accessing telehealth. Patients who are elderly, in areas with poor Internet or cellular coverage, or economically disadvantaged may not be able to access the technology necessary to telehealth.

4. How do I know if I am eligible to obtain telehealth services? What can I do to ensure broader access?

Again, laws vary by state regarding how telehealth is being implemented and what health insurance companies and providers can do. Review your health insurance plan benefits and policies frequently to learn how they may be changing. This CCHP list of COVID-19 state actions may also be helpful.

CCHP also monitors state and federal telehealth legislation to provide a clear overview of policy across the nation. As a citizen, you can monitor legislation that has been introduced in your state and testify to show your support or opposition. You can call your legislators to ensure your needs are being heard.

For a great overview and more in-depth discussion on all of these points on telehealth, please check out GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer’s Rapid Response Living Room from April 14, 2020, featuring Dr. Joelle Fathi.

Impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer clinical trials

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidance to clinical trial sponsors (pharmaceutical companies and government agencies), institutional review boards (IRBs), and researchers on how to adapt lung cancer clinical trials in the era of COVID-19. The FDA emphasizes that patients’ safety should be at the forefront of considerations at all times. Below, we answer three important questions for patients (and their caregivers).

1. How is the FDA allowing the use of telehealth for lung cancer clinical trials?

The FDA allows for changes to be made to the clinical trial protocol without prior FDA review or approval if the change is intended to protect the life and well-being of the patient. Therefore, changes in protocol conduct necessary to immediately assure patient safety, such as use of telehealth for safety monitoring instead of on-site visits, can be immediately implemented once the new protocol has been approved by an IRB. The FDA can then be subsequently notified. It is important to note that the consult is just one part of patient safety monitoring. The patient’s clinical trial team and the clinical trial sponsor will also need to have a clear plan in place to ensure that patient safety is prioritized in case routine monitoring such as blood tests and heart function exams are unable to be conducted.

2. If a patient is receiving their drug through a pharmacy at the clinical trial site, can they now receive the drug through home delivery?

The FDA understands that there may be a risk of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 when a patient visits a clinical trial site. In case a patient is receiving their drug (such as a targeted therapy pill) through their clinical trial site pharmacy, the clinical trial sponsor now has the option of directly mailing the drug to the patient’s home as long as the following conditions are met:

  • The patient already takes the pill at home as part of the trial protocol
  • The shipment of the drug to the patient’s home does not affect the chemical nature of the drug
  • The sponsor keeps a clear track of number of pills shipped to the patient’s home and is able to share this information with the FDA when asked

3. If a patient is receiving a drug given through infusion, can they now receive the clinical trial treatment through home infusion?

This is an extremely important question for the lung cancer community—where clinical trials often require an infusion of a chemotherapy, an immunotherapy, an angiogenesis inhibitor, or a combination of the above.

The FDA understands and appreciates that a patient may be exposed to SARS-CoV-2 when they travel to their routine clinical trial infusion center. Therefore, the FDA is open to alternative sites for administration (eg, home nursing or alternative sites closer to a patient’s home where the infusion is given by trained medical personnel who are not part of the study team). The ultimate decision to allow this switch to home infusion or local infusion is based on the following criteria:

  • The shipment of the drug to the local infusion center or to the patient’s home does not affect the chemical nature of the drug
  • The sponsor keeps a clear track of the amount of shipped to the patient’s home and is able to share this information with the FDA when asked

Another option is delaying or discontinuing infusion for a period of time while the patient continues to be on the study. This decision needs to be made jointly by the clinical trial team and the patient.

Note: The ultimate decision on whether to allow a home infusion or local infusion is highly dependent on the drug being tested. Some infusions cannot be given at a local infusion center or through home infusion. Examples include drugs that require ability to manage potential infusion reactions with specific medication, or treatments such as gene therapy or cell therapy that require exacting handling procedures and patient monitoring.

LUNGevity Foundation recently conducted an Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) listening session with FDA leadership and lung cancer patients. Stay tuned for the recorded webinar that can be accessed here.

Resources and Websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer and COVID-19 (an important perspective for cancer patients)
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  8. American Medical Association resources for healthcare providers
  9. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germs

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

As of April 11, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 492,416 cases of COVID-19 and 18,559 COVID-19-associated deaths. The United States now has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.  These numbers may be an underestimation of the true burden of the disease due to lack of testing and a high proportion of asymptomatic yet infectious individuals.

We urge everyone to continue to social distance: it is working!

Washington and California quickly imposed statewide social distancing through stringent shelter-in-place or stay-at-home policies once deaths occurred within their borders.  The graph below shows that COVID-19 deaths are still increasing in these two states, but not as fast as in other states. Deaths in New York State are now doubling every 3 days (when last week it was every 2 days), and in Washington State and some California counties, deaths are doubling only every week.

The most up-to-date version of the graph below can be accessed from the New York Times website here.

State death rates

In this week’s update, we answer the following important questions:

  1. What types of treatments are available for COVID-19?
  2. If I suspect I have COVID-19, what should I do?
  3. If I had COVID-19 and have now recovered, will I become immune to SARS-CoV-2?
  4. Can I find out if I was naturally infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and have developed immunity?
  5. How can I tell if information I read about COVID-19 is reliable?

1. What types of treatments or vaccines are available for COVID-19?

If you or your loved one (caregiver) has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, your/their healthcare provider will be the right person to decide what type of treatment is useful. Please do not treat COVID-19-related symptoms without consulting your healthcare provider. Do not try to procure or hoard medications such as hydroxychloroquine that are approved for use in other conditions, as this is creating a shortage of these medications for patients with conditions for which the drugs are already approved.

Currently, no specific treatment or vaccine is available for COVID-19. This continues to be an area of intense investigation. Some of the drugs described below may be available to COVID-19 through compassionate access. This does not mean a drug is approved for the treatment of COVID-19. It is important to keep in mind that properly controlled clinical trials take a long time to conduct.

Treatment

Various compounds such as remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine are being studied for the treatment of COVID-19.

  • Remdesivir is an antiviral drug. It has been shown to be active against a broad group of viruses such as filoviruses (cause of Ebola) and coronaviruses (eg, SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV). SARS-CoV is the cause of SARS and MERS-CoV is the cause of middle-east respiratory syndrome. These two viruses are related to SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19.  Remdesivir has been shown to protect against infection and treat infection caused by these coronaviruses in preclinical models (experiments involving animal models of virus infection). A recent publication in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that remdesivir given to hospitalized COVID-19 patients helped improve symptoms. Though promising, it is important to note that this study included a small sample of patients. Randomized clinical studies with appropriate controls are necessary before remdesivir becomes approved for use with all COVID-19 patients.
  • Hydroxychloroquine is a drug used to treat malaria and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis. It is known by the name Plaquenil in the US. Currently, evidence suggesting the successful use of hydroxychloroquine in COVID-19 patients is limited, and mostly anecdotal. Clinical trials studying the effect of hydroxychloroquine in the treatment of COVID-19 are ongoing. Despite the President’s ongoing endorsement of hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment for COVID-19, concerns about its cardiac toxicities are growing, especially for people with underlying cardiovascular disease. Recent guidance issued by leading heart disease organizations recommends caution when treating COVID-19 with the combination of hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin in certain patients.

Vaccines

Historically, vaccines against viruses have been very effective in eradication of common viral diseases such as smallpox and polio. From an individual perspective, vaccination prevents or modifies the severity of a disease. From a public health perspective, a vaccine eliminates or eradicates a disease from the population (for example, smallpox). Since the SARS epidemic in 2003, several companies and institutions have already developed platforms for vaccine development against coronaviruses, which is a family of viruses that includes SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19. On January 23, 2020, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was the first to announce funding of $12.5 million to develop vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 by three companies. Since then, both philanthropic and industry efforts have been mobilized for the development of a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. As of April 9, 2020, there are close to 80 vaccine development efforts. It is important to keep in mind that vaccine development is a lengthy process and best-case estimates suggest that it will take a minimum of 18 months to deliver an effective vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. Even once a candidate vaccine is identified, it must be manufactured at scale for a global population. To speed these efforts, the Gates Foundation has announced that it is supporting construction of factories to pursue development of seven vaccine candidates.

Other treatments

Recently, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also announced a $125 million partnership with Wellcome and Mastercard to accelerate the development of new drugs to treat SARS-CoV-2 infection. To track treatments that are being investigated for COVID-19, please check out the Milken Institute COVID-19 treatment and vaccine tracker. Here, you will also find information on clinical trials testing potential COVID-19 drugs/vaccines.

treatments/vaccines being tested

2. If I suspect I have COVID-19, what should I do?

If you (as a patient) or a loved one (a caregiver) exhibits the symptoms of COVID-19 (including but not limited to fever, dry cough, shortness of breath), immediately follow self-quarantine procedures. Immediately contact your healthcare provider (could be your primary care physician) about whether you need to get tested. Your healthcare provider will be able to guide you on next steps. The CDC and the Association of Public Health Laboratories maintain a list of laboratories that are currently conducting COVID-19 tests.

Please remember that you may not have symptoms even if you are infected with SARS-CoV-2. Social distancing is the only way to avoid getting infected with the virus. As a caregiver, please take extra precautions when you need to leave your house or apartment.

3. If I had COVID-19 and have now recovered, will I become immune to SARS-CoV-2?

The answer is – we do not know. When an individual is infected with a pathogen, such as bacteria or a virus, typically the body mounts an immune response. This is true even in individuals who remain asymptomatic. The immediate immune response ensures that the pathogen is eliminated from the body, and immunological memory (the basis of vaccination) ensures that if the body encounters the pathogen in the future, the immune system is ready to fight it off.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, based on experience with other coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, we believe that development of immunity will be highly individual-specific. Some individuals may develop high amounts of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 while others may not. Furthermore, it is not currently clear whether a one-time infection with SARS-CoV-2 confers lifetime immunity against the virus. Scientists are still evaluating what level of immunity is needed to confer protection against future infections with SARS-CoV-2.

4. Can I find out if I was naturally infected with COVID-19 and have developed immunity?

The answer as of April 13, 2020 is - we do not know. In order to check if an individual has been infected with a pathogen, healthcare providers can conduct blood tests (also known as serological tests) to check for indicators of immunity. For example, if you received the MMR vaccine, the doctor can check if you have immunity against measles, mumps, and rubella by looking at antibody titers in your blood.

In the case of SARS-CoV-2, the goal is to develop such a blood test that will help identify:

  • Which individuals have been naturally infected with SARS-CoV-2 and have recovered from the infection (even those individuals who were asymptomatic)
  • Which individuals have developed immunity against SARS-CoV-2 after they received a vaccine when the vaccine becomes available

Currently, scientists are studying which antigens of the SARS-CoV-2 will be the most effective in generating immunity. Several groups are developing blood tests, and one test has been FDA approved (but is not yet publicly available). There is hope that such tests will become available within the next few months (and probably sooner in some places), and will be useful in guiding how quickly normal activities can resume.

5. How can I tell if information I read about COVID-19 is reliable?

In the era of COVID-19 when information is evolving rapidly—with new information being available daily—it is important to depend on trusted and reputable sources of information. You will encounter several sources of information such as:

  • Print (newspapers such as New York Times, which also have online versions)
  • Online-only platforms such as Slate and Buzzfeed
  • Journal article websites
  • Personal blogs and stories

It is incredibly important to verify sources of your information to ensure that we are not spreading false information, which not only can cause unnecessary panic but can be downright harmful (such as misinformation regarding drugs). A good resource that provides guidelines to evaluate health information can be found here.

Resources and Websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer – https://www.lungcancernews.org/iaslcs-guide-to-covid-19-and-lung-cancer/
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know - https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer and COVID-19 (an important perspective for cancer patients)
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  8. American Medical Association resources for healthcare providers
  9. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germs

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 continues to grow in the US. As of April 5, 2020, there are 312,089 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US. These numbers may be an underestimation of the true burden of the disease due to lack of testing and a high proportion of asymptomatic yet infectious individuals.

To get a real-time understanding of the cases in the US, you can access the map through The New York Times.

US map of COVID-19 cases

In this week’s update, we answer the following important questions:

  1. Is social distancing working?
  2. Do I continue to social distance?
  3. Do I leave my city to go to someplace safe—such as a rural area?
  4. Should I use homemade masks to protect myself?
  5. Can I travel within the United States?

1. Is social distancing working?

YES, IT IS!  Washington and California quickly imposed statewide social distancing through stringent shelter-in-place or stay-at-home policies once deaths occurred within their borders.  The graph below shows that COVID-19 deaths are still increasing in these two states, but not as fast as in other states. Deaths in New York State are doubling every 2 days, but in Washington State deaths are doubling only every 7 days.

The most up-to-date version of the graph below can be accessed from the New York Times website here.

Death rates by state

The CDC continues to recommend social distancing to help decrease transmission of COVID-19 within the community. Social distancing measures, such as cancelling public gatherings and avoiding crowds, can slow the spread of the virus and spread cases out over a longer period of time, which can help hospitals provide care while avoiding being overwhelmed by patients. Social distancing helps “flatten the curve” in the spread of an infectious disease.

"flattening the curve"

This is especially critical because hospitals and health systems are working at full capacity. Flattening the curve ensures that systems are functional and people who require care the most can get the attention they need. The CDC recommends a distance of 6 feet or 2 meters as the minimum distance between individuals as part of COVID-19 mitigation strategy.

We encourage you to check out CDC’s COVID-19 community mitigation strategies here.

2. Do I continue to social distance?

YES, social distancing is currently the only known public health measure that can protect us from SARS-CoV-2. Social distancing minimizes risk of exposure to the virus. It is important to keep in mind that social distancing is NOT the same as social isolation. We encourage you to keep in touch with all your family, friends, and loved ones through phone and video conversations. Just because we are social distancing doesn’t mean we have to be socially isolated.

Social distancing is different from self-quarantine. Self-quarantine should be practiced by people who have been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 and who are at risk for coming down with COVID-19. It involves:

  • Using standard hygiene such as frequently washing your hands and not touching your face
  • Not sharing things like towels and utensils with other people who share the same household
  • Staying at home and not having any visitors
  • Staying at least 6 feet away from other people in your household

You do not need to have symptoms of COVID-19 to self-quarantine. Caregivers who have travelled or are leaving their homes frequently to run errands may choose to self-quarantine especially in COVID-19 hot zones.

3. Do I leave my city to go to someplace safe—such as a rural area?

NO! You should not be leaving your urban apartment or home and moving to a rural area for the following reasons:

  • You do not know if you or a loved one has been infected with SARS-CoV-2. An infected individual might not have any symptoms but still can continue to infect others.
  • You may not have access to your regular doctors and healthcare in a rural setting.
  • Small rural areas are not equipped to handle an influx of people. They may not have an adequate number of grocery and produce stores. More importantly, they may not have adequate medical care facilities should there be an emergency.

Do not indulge in “disaster gentrification” for your own safety, the safety of your loved ones, and that of other community members. It is our duty to keep rural communities insulated from this disease as much as possible.

4. Should I use homemade masks to protect myself?

YES! The CDC reports that a significant portion of individuals with COVID-19 lack symptoms (“asymptomatic”) and that even those who will eventually develop symptoms (“pre-symptomatic”) can transmit the virus to others before showing symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity—for example, speaking, coughing, or sneezing—even if those people are not exhibiting symptoms.  In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (eg, grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Masks should be worn in conjunction with maintaining adequate social distancing. It is also important to keep in mind that these face masks are not surgical masks or N95 masks (to be used primarily by healthcare workers as part of personal protective equipment).

Please watch this handy video to make your own homemade masks:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/cloth-face-cover.html

4. Should I travel within the US?

Though the CDC does not typically make suggestions about domestic travel, they highly recommend avoiding all non-essential travel within the US. Several cities and states already have a shelter-in-place order. Points to keep in mind should you need to consider domestic travel (from the CDC):

  • Is COVID-19 present in your home community? If so, avoid traveling to avoid spreading the virus. You might be required to enter quarantine at your destination.
  • Is COVID-19 spreading in the area where you are travelling to?
  • Will you or your travel companion(s) be in close contact with others during your trip?
  • Are you or your travel companion(s) more likely to get severe illness if you get COVID-19?
  • Do you have a plan for taking time off from work in case you are told to stay home for 14 days for self-monitoring or if you get sick with COVID-19?
  • Do you live with someone who is older or has a serious, chronic medical condition (especially important for caregivers)?

Resources and Websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer – https://www.lungcancernews.org/iaslcs-guide-to-covid-19-and-lung-cancer/
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know - https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can be found here:
  4. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the best places to get current updates. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state - https://www.politico.com/interactives/2020/coronavirus-testing-by-state-chart-of-new-cases/
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer and Coronavirus (an important perspective for cancer patients) - https://www.forbes.com/sites/miriamknoll/2020/03/20/the-one-two-punch-cancer-and-coronavirus/#73744a4358e6
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  8. The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  9. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germshttps://time.com/4877041/dirtiest-places-on-airplanes/

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

This update has been written in collaboration with Dr. Brendon Stiles. He is a thoracic surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and an Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Weill Cornell Medicine.

Download this update

That question must be on the mind of many lung cancer patients as they consider treatment during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We are currently in the middle of an unprecedented crisis that has left hospitals short on resources and personnel.  That has led to shutting down “elective” surgical cases (surgeries that are not considered to be of medical emergency) at many hospitals, particularly in places such as New York City that are COVID-19 hot zones. 

Are cancer cases truly “elective”?  And how long can patients and their surgeons actually wait? 

We don’t have a lot of data making a strong case for waiting or not waiting.  Some lung cancer-specific data suggests that the decision should be made based on how “quickly” the lung cancer grows. It takes on average 13.2 years for a lung adenocarcinoma to get to 1 cm in size and 14.4 years to get to 3 cm.  While other subtypes of lung cancer and other cancers may move much more quickly, this would obviously suggest that there is some time allowable prior to treatment for many cancers.  In that context, postponing surgery a few weeks or months may outweigh the risks of exposure to COVID-19.

It is, however, unclear what is the appropriate waiting time for each individual patient.   Most studies have suggested that for early-stage lung cancer, there is some risk of tumor progression that comes with delayed treatment.  That said, the risk appears to be small and not particularly predictable.  At this time, for hospitals that still have resources, the American College of Surgery recommends surgical resection as soon as feasible for patients with solid or predominantly solid cancer over 2 cm in size, while it recommends deferring lung cancer resection even in these hospitals for tumors less than 2 cm or for those that are predominantly ground glass. 

In the current situation, patients with early-stage lung cancer should also consider alternatives to surgical resection.  This is particularly true in areas that are the most affected by COVID-19, where surgery may not be an option for an extended period.  Outpatient centers likely have less exposures than inpatient where we know there are many COVID patients.  Also, patients spend less time in radiation treatment facilities.  Finally, radiation (at least early on) preserves lung function and doesn’t risk immediate decrease in lung capacity, which may put patients at risk for more complications should they become infected. Good data is available on the efficacy of stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR or SBRT) for the treatment of early-stage lung cancer.  It is also worth noting that radiation, particularly stereotactic, doesn’t preclude surgery down the road. 

It is not clear how data on treatment delay can be applied to patients with later-stage disease.  Certainly patients with clear-cut stage II or III lung cancer could be started on outpatient chemotherapy or chemoradiation with surgery pushed down the road several months if needed


LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

As of March 30, 2020, cases of the virus surge in countries around the world. The United States now has the highest number of COVID-19 cases globally. The CDC has issued a travel advisory for the New York tri-state area, which has the highest number of cases in the country. 

In this week’s update, we discuss lung cancer treatment and clinical trials in the era of COVID-19. The information presented in this update, though current, is a work in progress built on very little data. Implementation across institutions and trial sites will vary based on availability of resources and healthcare workers.

Also, please don’t forget to check out the Resources list.

Lung cancer treatment and COVID-19

The oncology community is currently balancing treatment decisions for lung cancer patients, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two factors are being used to decide what’s best for our patients:

  • Whether a delay in cancer diagnostic tests or treatment presents more risk than potential COVID-19 exposure in the clinic
  • Whether a difference in treatment approach can help reduce clinic visits and interactions with others

The CDC continues to recommend social distancing to help decrease transmission of COVID-19 within the community. Social distancing measures, such as cancelling public gatherings and avoiding crowds, can slow the spread of the virus and spread cases out over a longer period of time, which can help hospitals provide care while avoiding being overwhelmed by patients. Social distancing helps “flatten the curve” in the spread of an infectious disease. This is especially critical because hospitals and health systems are working at full capacity. Flattening the curve ensures that systems are functional and people who require care the most can get the attention they need. The CDC recommends a distance of 6 feet or 2 meters as the minimum distance between individuals as part of COVID-19 mitigation strategy.

Currently, lung cancer patients may need to engage with the oncology care system for the following reasons:

  • clinic visits
  • tissue and liquid biopsies
  • surgical procedures 
  • infusion sessions for chemotherapy or immunotherapy (or both)
  • refill targeted therapy drugs
  • radiation treatments
  • hospital admissions
  • blood draws for laboratory tests, and
  • imaging tests to check if treatments are working

Also, family members may sometimes accompany patients when they are visiting their doctors.

Recent studies out of China suggest that hospital admissions and repeated clinic visits increase the risk of COVID-19 exposure for patients. Further, a JAMA Oncology study reported that the infection risk for cancer patients in a tertiary care institution was 2-fold higher than the cumulative incidence observed in the city of Wuhan over the same time period. In light of these data and the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic, the oncology community has come up with the following suggestions for cancer treatment. Please be advised that these recommendations are subject to change.

Small Cell Lung Cancer (SCLC):

If you have a confirmed diagnosis, you may not wish to delay treatment (such as chemotherapy and radiation). You and your doctor should discuss what’s right for you.

Early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (Stage I to IIIB):

  • If you have already had surgery, your doctor may decide to not start with adjuvant chemotherapy and/or radiation.
  • If you have not yet had surgery, you and your doctor may decide to wait on the surgery or your doctor may suggest stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).
  • If you are currently having chemo-radiation, your doctor may decide to continue with your treatment or wait on additional treatment.

Advanced stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) (Stage IIIC-IV):

  • If you are on a targeted therapy (pill), you may continue with your treatment as planned. Make sure to check with your doctor and pharmacist to ensure an adequate supply of your cancer medication.
  • If you are already on immunotherapy or chemotherapy, your doctor may decide to continue with your treatment, space out infusions, or postpone treatment. They may decide to have you receive infusions at your local clinic or even home infusion, as needed.
  • If you are already undergoing radiation therapy, your doctor may choose to hold off on additional treatment, reduce the number of treatments, or keep you on treatment as planned, based on your individual health situation.

Several recent forums have discussed the management of lung cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Topics that are currently being addressed by lung cancer providers/thought leaders include:

  • How to determine whether pneumonitis is resulting from checkpoint inhibitor or COVID-19 infection
  • Should immunotherapy be withheld from patients whose tumors do not have known driver mutations (as determined by molecular testing)?
  • Spacing out or postponing infusions for patients on pemetrexed or immunotherapy maintenance
  • Reducing the number of fractions used in radiation therapy
  • Uncertainty regarding how COVID-19 treatments in clinical trials (such as remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine) may interact with immunotherapy drugs and tyrosine kinase inhibitors
  • The growing role for liquid biopsies in places where surgical biopsies are not currently practical (use of mobile phlebotomy too)
  • Challenges of spacing out chemotherapy schedules in light of current reimbursement
  • Growing role for telemedicine (effective for managing patients but loss of doctor-patient bond)
  • Educating others on their care teams to overcome lung cancer nihilism and stigma

All treatment decisions should be made jointly by you and your doctor. Do not change your treatment plan or doctor’s visit without consulting your doctor first.

Telehealth or remote consults may be an option for checking in with your doctor. Also, there may be the option to be referred to a “COVID-19-free” hospital or treatment center.

Clinical trials and COVID-19

Clinical trials continue to be a source of lifesaving therapies for lung cancer patients. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the conduct of clinical trials due to the following reasons:

  • Questions related to safety of patients traveling to trial sites and undergoing trial-related procedures
  • Potential shortage of healthcare providers to conduct trial-related activities
  • Interruptions to the supply chain of the drug(s) being tested

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently issued guidance to help clinical trial sponsors figure out the best approaches to ensure that trials can proceed within resource-constrained settings. A clinical trial sponsor in this case is defined as any entity (for example, a pharmaceutical company) involved in the development and testing of drugs and other interventions in clinical trials. Below we have summarized key points from the FDA guidance that are important from the patient perspective.

For clinical trials that are already ongoing:

  • Sponsors should consider each circumstance, assess the potential impact on the safety of trial, and modify study conduct accordingly. Decisions regarding this could include continuing trial recruitment, continuing use of the new drug(s) for patients already involved in the trial, and the need to change patient monitoring schedules throughout the trial. Clinical trial participants should be kept updated on any changes that a sponsor decides to implement.
  • Sponsors, doctors involved in the trials, and Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) may decide that the protection of a patient’s safety, welfare, and rights would be best served by continuing or by discontinuing use of the investigational product or participation in the trial. However, such decisions will depend on the specific circumstances of the clinical trial and the patients enrolled.
  • Given that trial participants may be unable to come to investigational sites due to protocol-specified visits, sponsors should assess whether alternative methods for safety evaluations could be implemented when necessary and feasible. Additionally, in deciding to continue or discontinue use or administration of the new drug(s), sponsors should consider whether the safety of participants can be ensured by implementing the alternative approach of monitoring such as local scans and blood tests. Sometimes, patients may require additional safety monitoring.

Several sponsors already have different measures in place to allow conduct of clinical trials and avoid as much disruption as possible, such as:

  • Allowing patients to have blood draws and CT scans at local cancer centers and clinics
  • Shipping drug supplies to patients, especially for targeted therapy (pills) trials
  • Remote consent
  • Mobile phlebotomy

If you are part of a clinical trial, we recommend you discuss your trial participation immediately with your research team.  If you were considering enrolling in a clinical trial, you may want to discuss with your treating physician what options are available for you. Any decision about trial participation should be made jointly by you and your healthcare team.

Resources and Websites

  1. IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer – https://www.lungcancernews.org/iaslcs-guide-to-covid-19-and-lung-cancer/
  2. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know - https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
  3. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can be found here:
  4. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the best places to get current updates. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
  5. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state - https://www.politico.com/interactives/2020/coronavirus-testing-by-state-chart-of-new-cases/
  6. The One-Two Punch: Cancer and Coronavirus (an important perspective for cancer patients) - https://www.forbes.com/sites/miriamknoll/2020/03/20/the-one-two-punch-cancer-and-coronavirus/#73744a4358e6
  7. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  8. The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  9. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germshttps://time.com/4877041/dirtiest-places-on-airplanes/

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

As cases of the virus surge in countries around the world, with Italy being particularly hard hit, many nations are taking extreme steps to mitigate the outbreak, including whole country lockdowns. Here in the United States, the President declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020. Several states have declared shelter-in-place to minimize non-essential activities and mitigate transmission. President Trump has declared California, New York State, and Washington State to be major disaster areas.

In this week’s update, we discuss the following topics related to COVID-19:

Origin of SARS-CoV-2

SARS-CoV-2 is the seventh coronavirus known to infect humans. SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 can cause severe disease, whereas HKU1, NL63, OC43, and 229E are associated with mild symptoms. There has been a lot of speculation on the origin of SARS-CoV-2. Scientists have now sequenced the genetic material of the virus isolated from different patients. These sequencing results clearly establish that SARS-CoV-2 is not a genetically engineered virus, meaning it is not manmade.1

The researchers provide two scenarios for the origin of SARS-CoV-2. In one scenario, the virus evolved to its current pathogenic (disease-causing) state through natural selection in a non-human host and then jumped to humans. This is how previous coronavirus outbreaks have emerged, with humans contracting the virus after direct exposure to civets (SARS) and camels (MERS). The researchers proposed bats as the most likely reservoir for SARS-CoV-2 as it is very similar to a bat coronavirus. In the other proposed scenario, a non-pathogenic version of the virus jumped from an animal host into humans and then evolved to its current pathogenic state within the human population. For instance, some coronaviruses from pangolins, armadillo-like mammals found in Asia and Africa, have similarities to SARS-CoV-2. A coronavirus from a pangolin could possibly have been transmitted to a human, either directly or through an intermediary host such as civets or ferrets.

Which age groups have severe responses to COVID-19?

Initial data on COVID-19 suggested that when stratified by age, the elderly were the most likely to develop a more severe form of COVID-19. Recent data released by the CDC demonstrated that this is not the case anymore.  As shown in the figure below, almost all age groups are susceptible to a serious form of COVID-19 that requires hospitalization.2

COVID-19 severity by age group

This is especially important to keep in mind given that younger people have been more resistant to social distancing.

How long does SARS-CoV-2 survive outside the body?

A recent study found that the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which causes COVID-19) can survive up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard, and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel. The researchers also found that this virus can hang out as droplets in the air for up to three hours before they fall. But most often they will fall more quickly.3

The researchers were able to detect viable viral particles for at least 72 hours on the four surfaces studied. This suggests that transmission of SARS-Cov-2 is possible through aerosols and fomites (solid objects and surfaces that are able to carry pathogens and transmit infections).

We recommend that after you bring articles into your home, you do the following:

  • Wash your hands after carrying delivered items into your home.
  • After accepting a package that’s in a cardboard container, put it aside or in the garage and let it sit for a day or two before opening (if possible).
  • After opening a package, wipe down all articles that have solid surfaces with chlorine wipes or disinfect with an alcohol-based solution.
  • At this time, there is no guidance on how to disinfect edible items such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Follow cleaning and disinfecting procedures listed on the coronavirus.gov website

Community transmission of SARS-CoV-2 by asymptomatic individuals

Data from initial cases of COVID-19 suggested that most transmissions were occurring through individuals who showed signs and symptoms of COVID-19. This is, however, not the case. It is now estimated that as many as 31% of new COVID-19 infections are being caused as a result of transmission through asymptomatic individuals—those who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 but don’t shown signs and symptoms of the disease.4 This is an especially important aspect of SARS-CoV-2 transmission and reinforces why we need to practice stringent social distancing to flatten the curve.

COVID-19 patients may present with non-respiratory symptoms even before they have respiratory symptoms

Individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 may present with gastrointestinal symptoms such as anorexia (83.8%), diarrhea (29.3%), vomiting (0.8%), and abdominal pain (0.4%).5 These gastrointestinal symptoms may show up even before respiratory symptoms of COVID-19. Furthermore, a small sample of patients presented with only gastrointestinal symptoms. If you have unexplained gastrointestinal issues, we suggest that you talk to your doctor promptly.  Also, conjunctivitis may be present in a small subset of patients as well. 6

Prepare your legal documents

Given the uncertainty over availability of medical care during the COVID-19 emergency, we suggest everyone review their legal documents and ensure they have a current Durable Power of Attorney and Advance Directive. This virus can progress very rapidly and seriously interfere with breathing, which means you cannot be certain that you will be able to make your wishes known verbally if you get severely ill. Discuss your wishes with your family and ensure everyone knows where to find these important documents.

If you haven’t completed these legal documents, some estate planning attorneys may be willing to help prepare and witness them via video conferencing so that you do not have to leave your home.

If you are not sure how to get started, please review the resources available at https://theconversationproject.org/

Can I take ibuprofen when I have COVID-19?

Short answer: yes.  Long answer: we’re not sure.

On March 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) posted an article suggesting that patients who have COVID-19 avoid taking ibuprofen, based on observations of patients in France.7 However, later the same day, WHO changed their stance and said patients who have COVID-19 should not avoid taking ibuprofen.8

This is a good example of how quickly information is evolving during this pandemic. It’s difficult for doctors to know whether to act on information that is based on the experience of only a few (or even one) patient.

Resources and websites:

  1. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know - https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
  2. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can be found here:
  3. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the best places to get current updates. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
  4. Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state - https://www.politico.com/interactives/2020/coronavirus-testing-by-state-chart-of-new-cases/
  5. The One-Two Punch: Cancer And Coronavirus (an important perspective for cancer patients) - https://www.forbes.com/sites/miriamknoll/2020/03/20/the-one-two-punch-cancer-and-coronavirus/#73744a4358e6
  6. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  7. The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  8. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germshttps://time.com/4877041/dirtiest-places-on-airplanes/

References

  1. Anderson K, Rambaut A, Lipkin W, Holmes E, Garry R. The proximal origin of SARS-CoV-2. Nature Medicine. 2020.
  2. CDC. Severe Outcomes Among Patients with Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) — United States, February 12–March 16, 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2020.
  3. van Doremalen N, Bushmaker T, Morris DH, et al. Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1. N Engl J Med. 2020.
  4. Nishiura H, Kobayashi T, Suzuki A, et al. Estimation of the asymptomatic ratio of novel coronavirus infections (COVID-19). Int J Infect Dis. 2020.
  5. Pan L, et al. Clinical characteristics of COVID-19 patients with digestive symptoms in Hubei, China: a descriptive, cross-sectional, multicenter study. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2020.
  6. AAO. Alert: Important coronavirus updates for ophthalmologists. https://www.aao.org/headline/alert-important-coronavirus-context. Published 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.
  7. Fang L, Karakiulakis G, Roth M. Are patients with hypertension and diabetes mellitus at increased risk for COVID-19 infection? Lancet Respir Med. 2020.
  8. ScienceAlert. Updated: WHO Now Doesn't Recommend Avoiding Ibuprofen For COVID-19 Symptoms. https://www.sciencealert.com/who-recommends-to-avoid-taking-ibuprofen-for-covid-19-symptoms/amp?fbclid=IwAR0f9eZt8u9s_xfiY06bJ0Sei2NasHQj_b_eosKGjBeJiJXi5LXQV3EIj7w. Published 2020. Accessed March 23, 2020.

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

The World Health Organization officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on March 11, 2020. As cases of the virus surge in countries around the world, with Italy being particularly hard hit, many nations are taking extreme steps to mitigate the outbreak, including whole country lockdowns. Here in the United States, the President declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020.

In this week’s update, we discuss four important topics related to COVID-19.

1. Social distancing and why it matters for COVID-19

COVID-19 is caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. Individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 appear to shed the virus from their respiratory tract (e.g., when coughing) even when symptoms may be very minor. Individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 appear to shed the virus from their respiratory tract during the prodromal period.1 The prodromal period is part of an infectious disease cycle. It is defined as the period during which the symptoms felt by an infected individual may not be very specific or severe. The infected person can still perform usual functions and can therefore continue to be infectious. An infected individual can shed virus with very minor signs and symptoms.2 This explains why we are seeing widespread transmission in the community (this didn’t happen with SARS).

The reproductive number (R0)– the number of secondary infections generated from one infected individual – is estimated to be between 2 and 2.5 for COVID-19 virus.3 This means that a single infected person infects 2.5 people, which is higher than for the influenza virus. Approximately 3 to 5 days after infection, a person starts shedding virus and can infect others. Therefore, within a month, a single case can lead to 244 new cases.

The CDC now recommends social distancing to help decrease transmission of COVID-19 within the community.4 Social distancing measures, such as cancelling public gatherings and avoiding crowds, can slow the spread of the virus and spread cases out over a longer period of time, which can help hospitals provide care while avoiding being overwhelmed by patients. Social distancing helps “flatten the curve” in the spread of an infectious disease. This is especially critical because hospitals and health systems are working at full capacity. Flattening the curve ensures that systems are functional and people who require care the most can get the attention they need. The CDC recommends a distance of 6 feet or 2 meters as the minimum distance between individuals. 5

Flattening the curve

In case you are interested, we invite you to take a look at the CDC’s community transmission mitigation strategy document (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf).

2. Appointments with your oncologist: virtual or in-person?

It may be a good idea to consider rescheduling or switching to a virtual appointment if your treating physician or cancer center provides this option. Note that virtual appointments are not appropriate for infusions for chemotherapy or immunotherapy, or potentially critical scans. If you have an oncology visit due in the next couple of months, please contact your treating physician as soon as possible to discuss what’s the right approach for you and whether they anticipate any drug shortages due to supply chain disruption.

Several hospitals are now limiting the number of visitors and/or people accompanying patients to no more than one at a time.  In Seattle, the area hardest hit with cases, some hospitals are implementing the following measures to avoid being overwhelmed6:

  • People with routine appointments are being screened for symptoms. Those who are sick are required to wear a mask or may not be allowed to enter the clinic. 
  • Elective surgeries are being postponed.
  • Patients who have flu-like symptoms or other concerns are asked to CALL their doctor rather than going directly to the Emergency Department or Urgent Care.
  • If you are having difficulty breathing, please do go to the Emergency Department.

3. COVID-19 testing: where we are now

We are seeing transmission in the community, so it’s likely the virus is more widespread in the United States than we imagine. However, we don’t have hard data because testing was not implemented in the earlier days of the epidemic in the US.7 Right now, most people need to have symptoms before they can be tested.  As more test kits are distributed, testing will hopefully expand.  Drive-through testing has been made available in a few locations but is not yet widely available. As we have stated previously, the symptoms of COVID-19 infection include fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. If you suspect that you have been infected, you should call your doctor or local health department to determine next steps. The availability of tests varies on where you live.

The CDC is maintaining an updated list of where tests are currently being performed in the US.8

Additionally, state health departments are a valuable resource, providing hotlines and websites with information about what to do if you are concerned that you or a loved one might be infected (links in the references).

4. Voices from the community

Please check out Janet Freeman-Daily’s article where she describes her experience as a lung cancer survivor with a cough and the difficulties she faced to get tested for COVID-19. Janet lives in the Seattle, WA area, a COVID-19 hotspot.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle published a helpful blog post, “Coronavirus: what cancer patients need to know.”

Resources and websites:

  1. The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know - https://www.cancer.gov/contact/emergency-preparedness/coronavirus
  2. We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can be found here:
  1. Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the best places to get current updates. https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/
  2. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  1. The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  2. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germs”: https://time.com/4877041/dirtiest-places-on-airplanes/

References

  1. Chan JF, Yuan S, Kok KH, et al. A familial cluster of pneumonia associated with the 2019 novel coronavirus indicating person-to-person transmission: a study of a family cluster. Lancet. 2020;395(10223):514-523.
  2. Hoehl S, Berger A, Kortenbusch M, et al. Evidence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Returning Travelers from Wuhan, China. N Engl J Med. 2020.
  3. WHO. Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) Situation Report – 46. 2020.
  4. CDC. Implementation of Mitigation Strategies for Communities with Local COVID-19 Transmission Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Web site. cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf. Published 2020. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  5. CDC. IInterim US Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Persons with Potential Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Exposures: Geographic Risk and Contacts of Laboratory-confirmed Cases. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html. Published 2020. Accessed March 15, 2020.
  6. UW. COVID-19 (formerly called Novel Coronavirus). https://www.uwmedicine.org/coronavirus. Published 2020. Accessed 2020, March 15.
  7. Lambert J, Saey TH. Social distancing, not travel bans, is crucial to limiting coronavirus’ spread. Science News2020.
  8. CDC. Testing in U.S. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/risk-assessment.html. Published 2020. Accessed March 15, 2020.

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

Download this statement

As advocacy organizations dedicated to serving the needs of lung cancer patients, all of us are closely monitoring the latest developments related to the outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the resulting disease, COVID-19.

In this update, we have included additional information on facts about COVID-19, symptoms, testing, information about populations at risk of serious infection, and what you should do to protect yourself from COVID-19.

We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can be found here:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen
https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Facts about SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19

  1. This novel virus presents a unique threat to vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, including cancer patients. Early studies conducted on lung cancer patients undergoing surgery suggest that this virus readily infects the lungs and can potentially cause pneumonia, making lung cancer patients particularly susceptible.1
  2. Research suggests that the overall clinical consequences of COVID-19 may ultimately be similar to those of a severe seasonal influenza or a pandemic influenza.2
  3. SARS-CoV-2 is very infectious. Infected individuals may not show symptoms of COVID-19 but are still considered infectious.3

Symptoms of COVID-19

Symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure and may include:

  1. Fever
  2. Tiredness
  3. Dry cough
  4. Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.
  5. Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don't feel unwell.

Can I get tested for COVID-19?

As of today, the CDC recommends testing symptomatic individuals. Clinicians should use their judgment to determine if a patient has signs and symptoms compatible with COVID-19 and whether the patient should be tested.4

Who are at increased risk of developing a serious form of COVID-19?

  1. Recent data suggest that certain populations may be at higher risk of getting very sick from infection with SARS-CoV-2. These groups include:
    • People with cancer.5 Though the numbers are very small (5 out of 18 patients included in the study), research suggests that lung cancer patients may be susceptible to a more serious form of the infection
    • People with lung disease,6 such as COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
    • People with hypertension (high blood pressure)7
    • People with diabetes7
    • People with heart disease6
    • People with kidney disease8
    • Older adults, defined as those above the age of 606,8
    • People in active cancer treatment or whose immune systems may be compromised by chemotherapy or steroids9
  2. If you have more than one of the risk factors described above, you may be at an even greater risk of developing a serious form of COVID-19.

What you can do:

  1. If you or a loved one are in one of the high-risk groups described above:
    • Stay at home as much as possible.
    • Make sure you have access to several weeks of medications and supplies in case you need to stay home for prolonged periods of time.
    • When you go out in public, keep away from others who are sick, limit close contact and wash your hands often.
    • Avoid crowds, especially in poorly ventilated spaces.
    • Stay up to date on CDC Travel Health Notices (https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices).
    • Plan now for what you will do if you, or people you rely on for support, become ill
  2. We encourage everyone to follow best practices for public health, such as staying home when ill, handwashing with soap and water (or using a hand sanitizer), and respiratory etiquette including covering the mouth and nose during sneezing and coughing.10 Many of the steps you would take to protect yourself from catching the flu also apply for protecting yourself against COVID-19.
  3. Regarding travel within the United States, at this time the CDC is encouraging limited travel restricted only to essential travel. We encourage all people to evaluate the need for non-essential travel and to take appropriate precautions if travel is required. Please check with your doctor before making international travel plans. Again, the CDC is maintaining a page that outlines current travel advisories: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

What you should not do:

Do not read or share information about COVID-19 from websites that are not maintained by reputable public health organizations (for example, the CDC). When in doubt, check your facts with what’s posted on the CDC or WHO website.

Treatment and Vaccines:

  1. As of now, there are no treatments for COVID-19. All treatments involve simply reducing the symptoms of the infection.
  2. As of now, there are no vaccines to prevent a COVID-19 infection.

Resources and websites:

  1. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  2. The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novel-coronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  3. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germs”: https://time.com/4877041/dirtiest-places-on-airplanes/

References:

  1. Tian S, Hu W, Niu L, Liu H, Xu H, S. X. Pulmonary pathology of early phase 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia in two patients with lung cancer. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2020.
  2. Fauci AS, Lane HC, Redfield RR. Covid-19 - Navigating the Uncharted. N Engl J Med. 2020.
  3. Nishiura H, Linton NM, Akhmetzhanov AR. Serial interval of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections. Int J Infect Dis. 2020.
  4. CDC. Evaluating and Reporting Persons Under Investigation (PUI) Summary of Recent Changes. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html. Published 2020. Accessed March 8, 2020.
  5. Liang W, Guan W, Chen R, et al. Cancer patients in SARS-CoV-2 infection: a nationwide analysis in China. Lancet Oncol. 2020;21(3):335-337.
  6. CDC. People at Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Web site. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/high-risk-complications.html. Published 2020. Accessed March 8, 2020.
  7. Guan W, Lian W, COVID-19 on behalf of China Medical Treatment Expert Group for COVID-19. Comorbidity and its impact on 1,590 patients with COVID-19 in China: A Nationwide Analysis. medRxiv. 2020.
  8. Liu Y, Sun W, Li J, et al. Clinical features and progression of acute respiratory distress syndrome in 2 coronavirus disease 2019 medRxiv. 2020.
  9. Center FHCR. Coronavirus: what cancer patients need to know. https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2020/03/coronavirus-what-cancer-patients-need-to-know.html. Published 2020. Accessed March 8, 2020.
  10. Del Rio C, Malani PN. 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Important Information for Clinicians. JAMA. 2020.

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

We understand and appreciate the severity of the new coronavirus epidemic (also known as COVID-19) that’s spreading globally. As advocacy organizations dedicated to serving the needs of lung cancer patients, all of us are closely monitoring the latest developments related to the outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the resulting disease, COVID-19.

This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which can be found here:

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Facts about SARS-Cov-2/COVID-19

  1. This novel virus presents a unique threat to vulnerable populations, including the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, including cancer patients. Early studies conducted on lung cancer patients undergoing surgery suggest that this virus readily infects the lungs and can potentially cause pneumonia, making lung cancer patients particularly susceptible.1
  2. Research suggests that the overall clinical consequences of COVID-19 may ultimately be similar to those of a severe seasonal influenza or a pandemic influenza.2

What you can do

  1. First and foremost, we encourage everyone to follow best practices for public health, such as staying home when ill, handwashing with soap and water (or using a hand sanitizer), and respiratory etiquette including covering the mouth and nose during sneezing and coughing.3 Many of the steps you would take to protect yourself from catching the flu also apply for protecting yourself against COVID-19.
  2. Regarding travel within the United States, at this time there are no restrictions on travel. However, the situation may change rapidly. We encourage all people to evaluate the need for non-essential travel and to take appropriate precautions if travel is required. Please check with your doctor before making international travel plans. Again, the CDC is maintaining a page that outlines current travel advisories: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

What you should not do

Do not read or share information about COVID-19 from websites that are not maintained by reputed public health organizations (for example, the CDC). When in doubt, check your facts with what’s posted on the CDC or WHO website.

Resources and websites

  1. You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website.
  2. The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/covid-19-2019-novelcoronavirus-resource-center-physicians
  3. If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germshttps://time.com/4877041/dirtiest-places-on-airplanes/

References

  1. Tian S, Hu W, Niu L, Liu H, Xu H, S. X. Pulmonary pathology of early phase 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pneumonia in two patients with lung cancer. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. 2020.
  2. Fauci AS, Lane HC, Redfield RR. Covid-19 - Navigating the Uncharted. N Engl J Med. 2020. 3. Del Rio C, Malani PN. 2019 Novel Coronavirus-Important Information for Clinicians. JAMA. 2020.

LUNGevity       GO2 Foundation           Lung Cancer Foundation of America           Lung Cancer Research Foundation        LungCAN

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