COVID-19 and Colorectal Cancer Get The Facts

ESMO Virtual Congress 2020: Colorectal cancer highlights

The European Society for Medical Oncology ESMO Virtual Congress 2020 took place last month, uniting clinicians and researchers from around the world to present new developments in oncology aimed at improving cancer patient care.

Improvements seen in health-related QoL with first-line pembrolizumab for DNA repair-deficient mCRC

Updated findings from the phase III KEYNOTE-177 study were presented on day 1 of the Congress. The investigators found that patients receiving pembrolizumab (Keytruda) as initial therapy for microsatellite-high/mismatch repair deficient metastatic colorectal cancer showed clinically meaningful improvements in health-related quality of life compared to similar patients who were treated with standard of care chemotherapy.

These results underline the importance of molecular testing for all colorectal cancer patients to determine microsatellite status.

While further research is warranted to validate the study findings, the results from KEYNOTE-177 are practice-changing and have the potential to improve outcomes among this subset of metastatic colorectal cancer patients.

Elderly patients with advanced colorectal cancer treated with adjuvant chemotherapy: tolerability and benefit

Findings from an analysis of data from the phase III TOSCA trial demonstrated that patients aged 70 or older with stage III colon cancer were less tolerant of adjuvant oxaliplatin/fluoropyrimidine chemotherapy, in addition to having worse relapse-free interval rates on the regimen. Relapse-free interval was defined as the length of time from initiation of cancer treatment that the patient survives without any signs or symptoms of the cancer. The findings suggest that additional consideration is warranted for elderly patients with respect to their general health status, underlying health conditions, and the management of expected side effects when receiving adjuvant chemotherapy regimens, due to different tolerability of treatment and a potential reduction of benefit compared to younger patients.

COVID-19 and Cancer

In response to the current pandemic, day 2 of the ESMO Virtual Congress 2020 explored how COVID-19 is impacting cancer care around the world.

Indeed, the pandemic is affecting the way cancer patients get medical care, which may indicate a delay in having cancer surgery or therapy. Additionally, cancer patients’ age, smoking habit, stage of cancer, performance status, prior steroids and class of anticancer systemic treatment are factors related to COVID-19 mortality.

Fortunately, the pandemic introduced the rapid and wide-spread deployment of telemedicine allowing physicians to carry out remote or virtual appointments instead of in-person visits. Telemedicine is proving to be an effective care delivery method that avoids many of cancer patients’ concerns.

However, it is important to note that healthcare and literacy play a huge role in access to telemedicine. If this innovative technology is to be adopted, it is essential to address all possible barriers to ensure that all patients can benefit equally from this healthcare delivery.

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