Pandemic Has Slowed Pace of Cancer Research

WEDNESDAY, Jan.27, 2021 (HealthDay News) – To the ever-growing list of collateral damage from COVID-19, add another victim: cancer research.

A new study says that during the first wave of the pandemic last spring, the number of newly launched cancer treatment studies soared by 60%.

“In short, the first wave of COVID slowed scientific progress in a health-related field far removed from the disease itself,” said study author Dr Elizabeth Lamont, senior medical director of Acorn AI, in Boston.

The finding follows a review of data collected by the Medidata Enterprise Data Store, which accounts for nearly 30% of all cancer research. The team has documented all of the new cancer studies launched between January and May 2020, when the pandemic began. These were then compared to figures from comparable periods in the previous four years.

The result: 1,249 studies were launched before the pandemic, an average of 312 studies per year. That compared to just 191 studies since the start of the pandemic, the researchers reported.

The good news is that, more recently, “our monitoring and ongoing research suggests that there has been a rebound in [cancer] the trial has started, ”Lamont said.

Still, the results, published online Jan. 27 in JAMA network open, “Tell only part of the disturbing story,” warned Dr. Richard Schilsky, chief medical officer of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).

“This study shows a sharp drop in the launch of New testing during the pandemic, “Schilsky noted.” But that doesn’t say anything about the number of cancer trials that have been suspended, put on hold, or in which recruitment rates have dropped drastically. In fact, the number of ongoing trials dropped by around 50% last spring. “

Why? Lamont said his study “was not designed to determine the reasons for the downward trend in oncology trial launches.”

But Schilsky pointed to “a variety of factors” that could be at play.

“Certainly, social distancing is part of it,” he noted. “Especially when you talk about vulnerable cancer patients. Many patients were scared. Of course. The treatments in the study are not proven, and many patients did not want to risk exposure to COVID to get unproven treatment.”

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