Edinburgh Cancer Research

Clinical Fellow Acts as Scotland Lead for UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Programme

Edinburgh researchers contribute to the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Programme: April 2020

UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project.

One of our Clinical Fellows, Karin Purshouse, ECAT Clinical Lecturer and PhD student in the laboratories of Prof Steven Pollard and Prof Wendy Bickmore, has been part of a UK-wide team setting up the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Programme. As a Medical Oncology Registrar, Karin has placed her PhD research project on hold during the coronavirus crisis and is the Clinical Outreach and Scotland Lead for the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Programme, which aims to identify and learn from every case of COVID-19 in cancer patients in the UK.

Cancer patients have been identified by the government as a vulnerable group who must self isolate during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Any extra risks of infection may be due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy that suppress the immune system or due to the cancer itself. Some treatments, such as immunotherapy may even increase the risk of an abnormal immune response leading to respiratory failure.

There is still very little robust research so far to help us understand how cancer should be managed differently during the pandemic. Many cancer centres are changing or delaying treatment – this has currently unknown consequences.

The Edinburgh Cancer Centre is contributing to a national initiative called the UK Coronavirus Monitoring Programme that is bringing together Cancer Centres across the country to collect information on how COVID-19 affects cancer patients along with details on treatments that may be putting them at risk. The results will rapidly feed back into front line decision making on cancer treatment.

The Edinburgh Cancer Informatics Programme will be using the UK dataset as the basis for its own COVID-19 response. We need to rapidly understand how COVID-related changes in treatment are affecting our patients in South and East Scotland. As one of the leading centres in the UK for data science applied to cancer, the programme has instigated real-time surveillance strategy to provide rapid learning from the pandemic.

There have been many rapid innovations in response to COVID-19. The Centre is monitoring for any changes in outcomes, both positive and negative, such as mortality, cancer control and treatment

toxicity that may be a consequence of the changes to care. Examples include a move towards remote consultation, less frequent or shorter treatments and a move from inpatient to outpatient treatment. The learning will tell us which of the many rapid innovations that have been implemented should become the norm in years to come.

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