Is the COVID-19 Coronavirus vaccine safe for use in patients having chemotherapy and immunotherapy?

Yes, the available indirect evidence indicates that the anticipated benefits overweigh the potential risks.

Cancer patients, particularly those on chemotherapy have compromised immune systems and hence more vulnerable to COVID-19 Coronavirus complications.

The guidelines indicate that anticipated benefits of vaccine are greater than unknown risks from the Coronavirus vaccines.

The Vaccine trials deliberately included lot of healthy people. Very few people with cancer, particularly cancer patients on active treatment, were included in the COVID-19 trials. So there is not much direct evidence regarding efficacy and safety of Vaccines in cancer patients. But indirect evidence significantly favours Coronavirus vaccination in cancer patients.

Flu vaccines are regularly used in cancer patients without any major side effects specific to cancer patients. No increase in incidence or severity of drug side effects were seen in immunotherapy patients having flu vaccines.

On balance, Vaccination is most likely to be of utmost benefit for most advanced cancer patients on active treatment.

References:

ESMO STATEMENTS FOR VACCINATION AGAINST COVID-19 IN PATIENTS WITH CANCER.

Guidance: COVID-19: the green book, chapter 14a
Coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccination information
for public health professionals. (UK),

Cochrane: Influenza (flu) vaccination for preventing influenza in adults with cancer

Safety of Inactivated Influenza Vaccine in Cancer Patients Receiving Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors
Curtis R Chong et al. Clin Infect Dis. 2020.

ESMO: CANCER PATIENT MANAGEMENT DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC.

Kuderer NM Choueiri TK Shah DP et al.
Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer (CCC19): a cohort study. Lancet. 2020; 395: 1907-1918

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.
The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

Cancer and COVID-19

Cancer patients, as expected, did badly during the 1st wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that Cancers had – higher rates of Hospitalisation, higher risk of Complications and increased risk of Death.

Elderly cancer patients on the whole did very badly but surprisingly cancer patients under age of 50 did far worse than their peers without cancer.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

New treatment for Advanced Uterine Cancer

Women with advanced uterine / endometrial cancer are usually treated with chemotherapy.

Those who failed chemotherapy or those who are fit for chemotherapy are sometimes treated with hormone treatment.

Letrozole is one such hormone treatment for those patients with hormone sensitive cancer.

In breast cancer, Letrozole efficacy can be improved by a treatment called Palboclicib.

A trial was done to check whether the same improvement can be observed in uterine cancer when the combination of Letrozole and Palboclicib is tried.

The trial data presented at the ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) is very promising.

If large trials confirm this finding, the combination would be standard treatment in future.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Plain English Medical Letters to Patients

Writing letters to patients in plain English without medical jargon is a gift that only a few doctors possess.

Personalising complex medical terminology in a letter dictated over a few minutes is NOT an inherent skill possessed by many doctors including those who are native English speakers.

Dictating Plain English medical letters would take considerable time and effort – particularly if letters are going to succinctly summarise everything from a medical consultation.

In UK, with regards to Cancer, we are lucky to have cancer charities who do a good job of providing information in plain English ( E.g Cancer Research UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Prostate Cancer UK).

Cancer Patients in UK also have the support of Cancer Nurse Specialists ( CNS ) who do a fantastic job of guiding patients through their cancer journey and clarify all medical jargon to patients.

Other specialities might not have the resources that are available to cancer patients. But, on the whole, Clinic Time slots are precious. Many UK specialists have long waiting lists.

So if further time and effort is to be expended in busy clinics for dictating plain English Letters – in addition to the usual Medical letters to GP – good clinical evidence is needed to demonstrate that separate plain English letters do benefit patients in a meaningful way.

Please do read the BMJ article and put forward your views in the rapid response section.

Access the article at: http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.m949

Toll-free link:
http://bmj.com/cgi/content/full/bmj.m949?ijkey=nxJ9CdIVHKZW1Jd&keytype=ref

Disclaimer:

The views expressed here are my personal views and do not represent the views of any other professional organisation I am associated with…

Exciting new immunotherapy treatment !

Test tube lab

The holy grail of cancer treatment is design a drug that is highly lethal to cancerous tissue but completely spares the normal tissues.

Scientists at Cardiff University have discovered immune cells which could provide such a clever treatment.

It is still early days. The principle has been proven in lab. But to be a useful treatment that can be used in cancer patients, it is still far off.

This particular novel form of immunotherapy using T cells is still in early stages and so many hurdles have to be overcome before this discovery could be employed in cancer treatment.

Nevertheless, it has certainly excited many researchers in the field of cancer and the paper has been published by a premier scientific journal.

 

References:

Original scientific paper. Genome-wide CRISPR–Cas9 screening reveals ubiquitous T cell cancer targeting via the monomorphic MHC class I-related protein MR1

BBC news. Immune discovery ‘may treat all cancer’. By James Gallagher. Health and science correspondent

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.

Does Cranberry juice relieve bladder symptoms due to radiation cystitis?

bowl of red round fruits

Many people do look for natural remedies to help with their symptoms.

Anectodally, many patients undergoing radiotherapy have reported that Cranberry Juice has eased their radiation cystitis symptoms.

What is the scientific evidence behind it ?

Should all patients having cystitis symptoms during radiotherapy take cranberry juice?

There is certainly scientific basis to expect benefit from Cranberry Juice.(1).

A lab study and a volunteer study (with volunteers from Japan, Hungary, Spain and France) has shown that certain chemicals in Cranberry can make bacteria ‘less sticky‘ to urinary tract walls and hence potentially reduces virulence of the bacteria.(1). But subsequent large studies have NOT confirmed any large benefit from Cranberry in terms of treating or preventing urinary tract infections. (2)(3).

But Radiation Cystitis is not due to bacterial infections although infections can co-exist sometimes. Hence the use of Cranberry has been studied separately in patients undergoing radiation therapy.

A New Zealand study involved 41 men undergoing radiotherapy for prostate cancer. Taking Cranberry (one capsule a day at breakfast) was found to reduce symptoms of pain and burning. (4).

On the other hand, in a study from Canada involving 112 patients , consumption of Cranberry juice compared with apple juice had no effect on radiation cystitis symptoms. (5).

Another study from United Kingdom was inconclusive because of poor patient recruitment and poor compliance. (6).

So the scientific evidence is inconclusive at present.(7).

Practically, if someone is keen to try it – the best course of action – ( for someone not intolerant of cranberry juice) – is to try it and see whether it offers any symptomatic benefit .

Disclaimer: Please note- This is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss options.

There are prescription medications available to help with radiation cystitis symptoms.

References:

1.Dosage effect on uropathogenic Escherichia coli anti-adhesion activity in urine following consumption of cranberry powder standardized for proanthocyanidin content: a multicentric randomized double blind study. BMC Infect Dis. 2010 Apr 14;10:94.

2. BBC News. Does Cranberry juice stop cystitis. By Claudia Hammond. (Accessed 1st Jan 2019).

3. BBC News. Ditch cranberry juice for urine infection . (Accessed 1st Jan 2019).

4.Standardized cranberry capsules for radiation cystitis in prostate cancer patients in New Zealand: a randomized double blinded, placebo controlled pilot study. Support Care Cancer (2015) 23: 95.

5. A Randomised Trial of Cranberry Versus Apple Juice in the Management of Urinary Symptoms During External Beam Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer. G.Campbell et al. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2003 Sep;15(6):322-8.

6. A Randomised Double-blind Placebo-controlled Trial to Determine the Effect of Cranberry Juice on Decreasing the Incidence of Urinary Symptoms and Urinary Tract Infections in Patients Undergoing Radiotherapy for Cancer of the Bladder or Cervix. Cowan CC, et al. Clin Oncol (R Coll Radiol). 2012.

7.Chemical- and radiation-induced haemorrhagic cystitis: current treatments and challenges. BJU Int. 2013 Nov;112(7):885-97.

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