An international panel of cancer experts has recommended a one-week treatment protocol for patients who need radiotherapy. On April 7, 2020, the group discussed the best way to minimize the additional issues that radiotherapy treatment causes, namely, weakened immune systems. Surgery, which usually happens one to two weeks after radiotherapy, can be safely delayed by up to 12 weeks, says the expert panel.
People with bowel cancer are more susceptible to severe complications from COVID-19 because their immune systems are weakened. Shortening the length of radiotherapy replaces the need for chemotherapy, which typically can make the immune system even weaker.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is a global emergency and we needed to work very quickly to identify changes that would benefit patients. Our recommendations were published 20 days after our first meeting. This process normally takes many months, if not years,” said David Sebag-Montefiore, professor of clinical oncology at the University of Leeds and who lead the panel of cancer experts.
The panel, which was comprised of 15 top cancer professionals, showed that surgery could be safely postponed after radiotherapy from oncology equipment was performed. This protocol allows surgery to be scheduled after the peak of the pandemic.