By Emmanuel Oluebube, Correspondent UK
With the COVID-19 pandemic contributing to delays in clinical trial enrollment and routine cancer screening and treatment, many barriers have arisen preventing patients from seeking and receiving timely care for cancer. The full impact of COVID-19 on the oncology development and treatment landscape one year later is currently unknown, and it will be some time before it can be completely assessed, says GlobalData.
Oncology and Hematology Senior Director at GlobalData, Fern Barkalow, PhD, comments: “Short-term factors, such as clinical trial enrollment suspensions and delayed diagnoses in the early days of the pandemic, have moderated due to factors such as the rapid implementation of telemedicine, including online protocols for patient communication and reporting during clinical trials. However, cancer treatment rates in general have declined substantially, initially due to cancellations or delays on the part of providers and continued reluctance by patients to seek diagnoses and treatment during pandemic conditions.”
Oncology clinical trial disruptions are still a factor nearly one year later. Presently, approximately 275 oncology trials out of 1,000 trials (28%) are suspended and only 296 oncology trials out of 933 trials (32%) that were previously suspended have resumed operations. The trends in the ratio of restarts to disruptions can be tracked and used as an indicator of the recovery of clinical development over time.
Barkalow adds: “In the long term, the pandemic may have a number of far-reaching consequences on the cancer treatment landscape due to shortages of medical staff, decreased access to treatment, delays in diagnosis, decreased survival and increases in disease incidence related to COVID-19 infection.
“With World Cancer Day approaching, it is important to highlight that some of the factors affecting delivery of healthcare during the ongoing pandemic can be mitigated through increased education, as well as the implementation of resources designed to reduce the impact of decreased medical staff, allowing treatment and diagnostic procedures to resume to pre-pandemic levels. However, given the dynamic nature of evolving factors such as the recent availability of COVID-19 vaccines, clinical trial suspensions and restarts, as well as resource-driven improvements in patient treatment, it is too early to assess the full impact of the pandemic on oncology drug development and treatment.”