March 31, 2022
Over the past two years, the world has witnessed the prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The rapid international spread of COVID-19 has posed a global health threat and was considered a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” Thus, the occurrence of COVID-19 brings challenges to senior citizens or the elderly and those with underlying comorbidities, including Cancer. In fact, this infectious disease has a long-lasting impact on Cancer diagnosis, treatment, and research. Research has shown that Cancer patients have a higher risk of getting COVID-19 and they tend to have more severe symptoms.
To shed light on this issue, the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) held a webinar titled “COVID-19 and Cancer” on Tuesday, March 29, 2022. The session focused on the impact of COVID-19 on Cancer patients, and research. It also displayed the effects of COVID-19 on the provision of Cancer management to patients, while highlighting lessons learned from COVID-19 vaccines, and the prospects of developing new therapies for different types of Cancer.
The webinar was led by a panel of experts including Professor of Cancer Medicine, Consultant Physician, Oxford University, UK. Associate Editor in Chief, Journal of Global Oncology, Prof. David Kerr; Consultant Oncologist, Editor in Chief, The Gulf Federation of Cancer Control, State of Kuwait, Prof. Khaled Al Salih; and Director General of King Hussein Cancer Foundation, Ms. Nisreen Qatamish. In addition, the session was facilitated by Professor, Pathology Department, College of Medicine, University of Baghdad, Dr. Nada Alwan; and Public Health Expert, Associate Professor, Baghdad University, Iraq, Dr. Faris Lami.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Lami welcomed the webinar participants and speakers, and introduced Dr. Alwan as the second facilitator. The facilitators then presented the webinar’s focus, objectives, and speakers. Dr. Lami then handed the microphone over to Prof. Kerr, who presented The New Normal in Clinical research.
Prof. Kerr began his presentation by giving an overview of the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project and he shared statistics on patients’ clinical outcomes and the effect of chemotherapy four weeks after being infected with COVID-19. He also said that the lack of clinical staff with the ability to conduct trial activities and visits, the revised use of clinical facilities, and the reprioritization of diagnostic tools and facilities such as imaging and laboratory analysis caused problems for ongoing clinical trials during COVID-19. Prof Kerr also shed light on COVID-19 Research and presented HDACi: Potential Uses as an Anti-Viral Agent, and Emactuzumab: Potential Uses as an Anti-Viral Agent.
The second presenter, Dr. AlSalih talked about the COVID-19 and Cancer Situation in Kuwait. He began by providing a brief overview of the COVID-19 situation in Kuwait, as well as the situation with cancer during the pandemic and the Kuwait Cancer Control Center (KCCC). Dr. AlSalih also highlighted the role of doctors and the treatment of Cancer patients during the pandemic. He then spoke about the role of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in the fight against Cancer.
From her end, Ms. Qatamish, spoke about Cancer Care Provision and recovering COVID-19 spillovers. She talked about the wide spectrum impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients, and how the focus from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) to communicable diseases stressed health resources and redirected resource mobilization efforts. She went on to say that in an emergency situation, agile adaptive service delivery is the key to uninterrupted care. She also touched on patient and staff safety and the importance of a tailored communication strategy amid the pandemic. Ms. Qatamish concluded her presentation by emphasizing that a pandemic does not end cancer and that health systems can grow stronger post COVID-19.
Following the presentations, Dr. Lami and Dr. Alwan moderated a Q&A session in which participants interacted with the speakers.