Helping blood cancer patients in the COVID era

6 months ago the effect of COVID-19 on patients with blood cancer was essentially unknown. Haematological cancer doctors have had to develop quick and effective methods to determine if blood cancer patients will be able to fight off the virus, and implement frameworks to ensure that patients undergoing cancer treatment are kept safe.

In order to better understand what had to be done to ensure the safety of blood cancer patients, researchers at the University of Oxford set out to create a new system. In March 2020, the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project was launched, which would allow doctors who have worked with COVID-19 positive blood cancer patients to share their knowledge online, pool information and for the medical sector to learn rapidly from national experience.

Co-lead by the University of Oxford, the objective is to identify and learn from every case of COVID-19 in cancer patients in the UK through comprehensive reporting. This disease-specific national public health response is the first phase of a broader national coronavirus disease response initiated by NHS doctors on the ground.

Thus far 250 doctors and 65 cancer centres have used the platform to share their experience of blood cancer patients with COVID, and helped to form the world’s largest blood cancer registry.

A publication by the team released last month in the Lancet Oncology revealed that blood cancer patients were 57% more at risk of fatality if they contracted COVID-19 than other cancer patients. Using this information it is hoped that more informed policies around social isolation can be made during the pandemic.

Dr Lennard Lee, Oxford University Hospitals Trust, says;

“Each week data from the project has been released, enabling UK blood cancer doctors on the ground to have the critical information they required to make the best decisions for blood cancer patients.”

Ongoing work, being co-led by the University of Oxford is being carried out to identify areas of risk to blood cancer patients and how best to enable safe blood cancer care in the era of COVID-19″.

The project is co-lead by Prof Rachel Kerr & Dr Lennard Lee, Oxford University Hospitals, alongside University Hospital Birmingham’s Prof Gary Middleton.

An anonymous patient said:

“I’m glad we have some understanding of how COVID is affecting people with my condition and why it’s so important I am careful and stay safe at the moment.”

If you are a clinician who wants to help contribute to this project you can report cases and share information via the website here.