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Coronacrazy coverage of COVID-19’s impact on cancer patients and POC

7 Jun
cancer and covid

Cancer and COVID-19: double trouble. Illustration by Kimberly Carney, Fred Hutch News Service

Like a lot of people, I’ve been consuming a ton of COVID-19 news and new research. And because it’s my job, I’ve been writing about it for the masses.

Two things seem very clear.

One, the novel coronavirus is more deadly to cancer patients who are older, who have other health conditions — think diabetes and hypertension — and who have active disease.

Here’s a piece I wrote for Fred Hutch that breaks it all down. It’s based on new data just out from the COVID-19 & Cancer Consortium, or CCC19.

Published in The Lancet, CCC19’s data comes from a crowdsourced cancer/COVID-19 patient registry which was put together by a handful of Twitter-savvy cancer researchers in a matter of weeks. Since then, it’s morphed into huge international collaboration with more than 2,000 patients and hundreds of clinicians, researchers and research institutions, all working to gather, analyze and disseminate crucial cancer/COVID-19 outcomes in near-real time.

Here’s a snippet and a link to the full story.

What happens when cancer patients get COVID?

Large new observational study of nearly 1,000 patients breaks down who’s most at risk with coronavirus, highlights need for additional care

The first large observational study of nearly 1,000 cancer patients who contracted COVID-19 was published today by The Lancet and simultaneously announced at a virtual ASCO 2020, the large annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The findings, gleaned from over 100 institutions participating in the international COVID-19 & Cancer Consortium, or CCC19, patient registry, underscore how deadly the new coronavirus can be for patients with active cancer and other underlying health conditions.

“If you have active cancer and are older or have multiple comorbid conditions that require therapy, you are likely at much greater risk from complications of COVID-19,” said co-senior author Dr. Gary Lyman of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“That’s one of the major findings and one of the most concerning findings. However, the risk is greatest in those with progressive disease and poor performance status and less when the cancer is stable or responding.”

The second thing, and this will come as no surprise to anybody who’s been paying attention to the Black Lives Matter speakers the last few days, COVID-19 is also disproportionately deadly to people of color.

It hits African-Americans, Hispanics, Indigenous people and other people of color much harder, just like cancer and chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc.

With COVID-19, though, it goes deeper: it’s hitting black and brown populations harder because they’re more likely to be essential workers. They’re the ones working elbow-to-elbow in fruit and meat-packing plants. They’re the ones nursing COVID-19 patients in clinics and ERs. COVID-19 has exposed who’s privileged enough to safely shelter at home, safely work at home. And who isn’t.

It’s a new disease that’s underscored an age-old foe: racism and the systemic racism that’s baked into every one of our institutions.

Again, a snippet and a link to the full monty. Thanks, as always for the read. This is an important one.

COVID and cancer expose society’s health care gaps

Fred Hutch researchers work to disrupt health disparities and misinformation as coronavirus ravages the medically underserved

Disease hits black and brown people harder. Same for indigenous people, folks in rural areas, members of the LGBTQ community and others who are medically underserved. It’s what the research shows and what many of us have experienced firsthand.

These disparities aren’t the result of genetic predispositions, but societal ones. It’s the person’s socioeconomic status, their insurance and immigration status, the neighborhood where they live and whether they have access to (and can afford) health care, nutritious food, social support. It’s how people treat them based on their looks or their heritage. These are the things that truly dictate who gets sick and who dies.

It’s true for cancer, for cardiovascular disease and diabetes and in these times, for COVID-19.

“The disparities we see in COVID-19 are very consistent with most forms of cancer and most health conditions in the U.S.,” said Dr. Christopher Li, an epidemiologist with Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center at a recent Hutch Town Hall on health disparities.

And it’s crucial, especially as racial inequality has launched yet another national crisis, to understand them “within the context of the significant economic and social differences that exist in our society,” he said.

Finally, one last story from April (yes, I’m the world’s slowest blogger) on Treating Cancer in the Shadow of Coronavirus. It outlines what oncologists and cancer policymakers are doing to keep newly diagnosed cancer patients and those in treatment safe from infection with COVID-19.

Stay well, my friends. Keep wearing those masks, keep washing those hands, keeping lifting up the voices of those who matter and just keep swimming.