Disruptions to lung cancer care at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic have left thoracic oncologists grappling with new challenges in patient management.
A WCLC 2022 panel discussion titled “Management of Lung Cancer in the Era of COVID-19” will explore how the pandemic has affected lung cancer screening, diagnosis, surgery, radiotherapy, and systemic treatment and offer strategies for dealing with these changes.
Set for 10:45 AM CEST on Sunday, August 7, the four-member panel will be moderated by Christian Grohé, MD, Chief Physician in the Clinic for Pneumology at Evangelical Lung Cancer Hospital in Germany, and Marina Chiara Garassino, MD, a professor at University of Chicago Medicine. The discussion concludes with a question-and-answer session. The session takes place in Hall C2 and will be available on-demand within 24 hours of the live presentation.
Management of Lung Cancer in the Era of COVID-19
- Time: 10:45 – 11:45 CEST
- Date: Sunday, August 7
- Location: Hall C2
- Moderators: Christian Grohé, MD, and Marina Chiara Garassino, MD
The discussion is designed to help guide members of the interdisciplinary team as they navigate unfamiliar and novel patient needs while facing staffing shortages caused by pandemic-era burnout—a situation that has been complicated by the flow of millions of Ukrainian patients with lung cancer into European treatment centers.
Four speakers will present, with Drs. Garassino and Grohe sharing introductory thoughts.
Spike in Advanced Lung Cancers
A key focus of the presentations will be the fallout from disruptions in oncologic services that occurred at the start of the pandemic.
Along with a fear of COVID-19 infection that made many patients reluctant to visit hospitals, Dr. Garassino says a spike in cases of advanced lung cancer can be attributed to four factors.
- A reduction in lung cancer screening for eligible individuals, in some cases because CT machines were being used strictly for COVID-19 diagnosis.
- A lack of timely care for patients with advanced lung cancer because no ICU beds were available.
- COVID-19 infection among members of surgical teams that caused scheduling delays.
- Unwanted breaks in radiation therapy for patients who contracted COVID-19.
Applying the Lessons of COVID-19
Both moderators will touch on lessons that have emerged during the pandemic, primarily among them that patients with lung cancer derive benefit from the COVID-19 vaccine.
“Those who receive the vaccine do better,” Dr. Grohe said. “Their care is easier, they’re less likely to be ventilated or admitted to the ICU, their diagnostic testing and systemic therapy do not have to be delayed, and they are less prone to depression due to a high burden of disease.”
To show how vaccination helps patients with lung cancer survive COVID-19, Dr. Garassino will discuss the results of her team’s TERAVOLT registry, which demonstrate that mortality in these patients has dropped from 33%1 to 3.2%2 since the beginning of the pandemic.
Practitioners will also hear about recent findings showing that systemic lung cancer treatments can be given successfully despite COVID-19, and that patients with early lung cancers discovered incidentally during diagnosis of COVID-19 can safely undergo potentially curative surgery, even if they have interstitial lung disease following ventilation.
The moderators plan to leave attendees with a call to action: The creation of a registry evaluating whether people with post-COVID-19 inflammation face an increased risk of developing lung cancer.
“Historically, patients with interstitial lung disease have demonstrated a higher prevalence of developing lung cancer,” Dr. Grohe said. “We should study patients in the post-COVID cohort based on their proportion of risk.”
An array of additional takeaways will be offered by the four presenters.
- 1. Garassino MC, Whisenant JG, Huang L-C, et al. COVID-19 in patients with thoracic malignancies (TERAVOLT): first results of an international, registry-based, cohort study. Lancet Oncol. 2020;21(7):914-922.
- 2. Bestvina CM, Whisenant JG, Torri V, et al. Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outcomes, Patient Vaccination Status, and Cancer-Related Delays During the Omicron Wave: A Brief Report From the TERAVOLT Analysis. JTO Clin Res Rep. 2022 May 20. (Epub ahead of print).