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

A highly effective treatment for secondary brain cancer in some Lung cancer patients

Brain secondaries from many primary cancer is always difficult to treat.

Particularly brain secondaries from Lung cancer patients can be quite difficult to treat.

Whole Brain Radiotherpy was widely used in past to treat brain secondaries in Lung cancer patients until 2016.

In 2016, QUARTZ study reported that Radiotherapy provided“ little additional clinically significant benefit for this patient group”.

So very few treatment options existed for this group of patients.

So it’s reassuring to see that a new drug was found to be highly active in lung cancer patients with brain secondaries.

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that the Lorlatinib showed a staggering 82% response rate in a small sub-group of patients.

References 1. Dexamethasone and supportive care with or without whole brain radiotherapy in treating patients with non-small cell lung cancer with brain metastases unsuitable for resection or stereotactic radiotherapy (QUARTZ): results from a phase 3, non-inferiority, randomised trial. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30825-X/fulltext

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.

A novel drug Osimertinib reduces risk of Brain cancer secondaries in lung cancer patients

Traditional intravenous Chemotherapy agents are often thought NOT to be highly effective in treating and preventing brain secondaries. This is because of the penal blood brain barrier.

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) presidential symposium shows that the Osimertinib is highly active and significantly reduces risk of brain secondaries.

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 combination for advanced Kidney cancers

The treatment of kidney cancer has dramatically changed in the last decade. More treatments are in pipeline and there was more exciting news this week.

Upfront immunotherapy in combination with other agents is very promising in 1st line treatment of advanced kidney cancers.

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that the combination of Nivolumab and Cabozantinib is better than Sunitinib alone.

Nivolumab and Cabozantinib” combo joins the other combos “Nivolumab and Ipililumab” and “Pembrolizumab and Axitinib “ as 1st line options

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 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.

Is it worthwhile to be on constant vigilance for any symptoms which might indicate cancer has come back ?

Unfortunately no.

A Cancer charity advices to watch out for symptoms.

Constant Vigilance for cancer recurrence has its own downsides.

After successful cancer treatment, being on look out for symptoms constantly wrecks your quality of life for minimal benefit in most cases.

Many trials of intensive screening shown no benefit for early detection of secondary cancer. ( note- this is different from the ongoing debate about benefits of primary cancer detection with cancer screening programs such as Mammograms, PSA screening, bowel cancer screening).

Cancer patients are quite often aware of own body and pre-existing aches and pains.

The best thing is to act promptly if there are “any new and persistent symptoms” . For vast majority of cancer patients, there is no need to do a frequent check list of possible symptoms, on a daily or weekly interval.

Do NOT be on constant vigilance for all possible cancer symptoms unless you have been specifically advised to do so by your oncology team.

Eternal Vigilance for months and years can wreck your quality of life.

Think Positive. Nothing is lost when you maintain hope.

References

BBC news . https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-49999404

‘Unacceptable’ delays in diagnosing secondary breast cancer

The standard disclaimer is very relevant to this blog.

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.