Covid-19 Khalifa Foundation, Roche support publishing of first international medical recommendations for treating cancer patients during COVID-19

A team of cancer treatment specialists from around the world published the first international medical recommendations for treating cancer patients during the coronavirus pandemic.These recommendations are based on a study entitled: “A Practical Approach to the Management of Cancer Patients during the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Pandemic.”

Emirati physician Humaid Al-Shamsi, Consultant of Oncology and Cancer Diseases, Associate Professor at the University of Sharjah and President of the Emirates Cancer Society, led the study, which was funded by the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and Roche.

Mohammed Haji Al Khouri, Director-General of the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation, stated that the Foundation supports scientific research around the world, to maintain human health regardless of religion, race, colour, sex or language, stemming from the UAE’s approach to tolerance and humanity reflected by the international humanitarian stances taken by its leadership.

Al Khouri stressed that supporting scientific research, especially during the current crisis, is one of the Foundation’s priorities, noting that the international cooperation between the group of international experts, under the supervision of the Emirates Cancer Foundation, is a global achievement for the UAE.

Al Khouri thanked Dr. Al Shamsi and the scientific team that prepared the study while expressing his aspiration that it will give hope to many cancer patients from around the world during the current crisis.

“We have seen the dangers that cancer patients across the world are facing during the current coronavirus pandemic, as well as the absence of any international recommendations for treating them during the crisis. That is why we decided to bring together international experts to make recommendations as soon as possible, to establish a global reference for all cancer therapists. We, therefore, cooperated with the Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation and the Swiss company, Roche, a pioneer in the field of healthcare and oncology technology, to collect data from Hubei in China, as well as from Italy, Taiwan, Singapore, the US, Canada and Kuwait.

The study was supervised by the Emirates Cancer Foundation, under the umbrella of the Emirates Medical Association, EMA. We worked around the clock for three weeks and came up with recommendations for the first time in the world on dealing with cancer patients during the coronavirus pandemic,” Al Shamsi said.

“This constructive body of work, which is intended to help cancer patients all over the world, reflects the UAE’s approach of tolerance and lending a helping hand to others under all circumstances,” he added.

The study was published in the latest edition of ‘The Oncologist’, a medical journal dedicated to best care practices for cancer patients.

The study concluded that consideration of risk and benefit for active intervention in cancer population during an infectious disease pandemic must be individualised, and postponing elective surgery or chemotherapy for cancer patients with low risk of progression should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

It also recommended minimising outpatients’ visits and elective admissions to help mitigate exposure and possible further transmission of COVID-19.

Roche, a world leader in healthcare, said this unprecedented cooperation that brought together leading experts from all over the world to develop a cure for cancer. The company renewed commitment to supporting all types of scientific research and commended the determination shown researchers, doctors and international pharmaceutical companies to curb COVID-19.

Dr Mouza Abdullah Al Sharhan, President of Emirates Medical Association, said this breakthrough reflects the Association’s keen support to all efforts in medical and scientific fields. She praised the role played by the Emirates Oncology Society in establishing collaboration with the leading research institutes to publish and implements latest research findings in the UAE.

Professor Conghua Xie, Department of Radiation Oncology Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University Wuhan, China, said although being the first city in the world to experience the outbreak of coronavirus had its negative connotations, but the the crisis provided doctors there with a huge experience to deal with such cases.

“Such research papers keep the doctors and specialists informed and help them deal with this virus. This initiative shows the UAE’s interest in contributing to defeat this pandemic.

Dr Waleed Alhazzani, Professor of Critical Care, Department of Medicine, McMaster University in Canada, said the study recommendations were carefully reviewed to ensure their accuracy worldwide and to serve as a reference to cancer therapists.

Professor Melvin L.K. Chua, Clinician-Scientist at the National Cancer Centre Singapore, said this cooperation underlines the desire of medical research experts to assist their fellow physicians in taking the right decisions for cancer patients at these difficult times.

Dr Robert Wolff, Professor of Medicine in the Department of GI Medical Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, United States, said the study is expected to increase awareness among cancer therapists across the world on taking the right decision when treating cancer patients.

Dr Giuseppe Curigliano, Associate Professor of Medical Oncology at University of Milano, Italy, said the Italy’s bitter experience had motivated him be part of the study, in order to transfer knowledge and expertise to the whole world.

Dr Nuhad Ibrahim, Professor of Hematology and Oncology at Anderson Cancer Center, said the UAE has always been in the forefront in support of medical and scientific research.

Dr Cathy Eng, Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Oncology) at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, United States, said this is the first global cooperation of its kind and expressed the hope that further collaboration on cancer and COVID-19-reltaed research will unfold soon.

Dr Brandon M. Meyers, Associate Professor, Medical Oncologist, Juravinski Cancer Centre, Canada, expressed appreciation to the UAE for the vital role it plays in support of medical and scientific research.

Dr Axel Grothey, medical oncologist and Director of Gastrointestinal Cancer Research at West Cancer Center and Research Institute, United States, said this unique initiative opens door for future research collaboration.

Dr Tarek Elfiki, Professor at University of Western Ontario, Canada, described the study as a fruit of collaboration among a group of best specialists and practitioners from various parts of the world. He thanked the UAE for supporting this important research work.

Dr Ahmad Alhuraiji, Professor of Hematology, Blood and Marro Transplant at Kuwait Cancer Control Center, said he was pleased to be part of this one of a kind international collaboration. He praised the team’s hard work, noting that the study findings, which usually take months to prepare, were prepared in less than three weeks.

“The recommendations of the study constitute a nucleus of experiences the different team members went through, in the hope that they will be useful in improving conditions of the cancer patients all over the world,” he added.

Dr Eric A. Coomes, from Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, Canada, said it was critical for all specialists to collaborate at this time to develop the correct recommendations to cancer patients.

Dr Sebastien J. Hotte, Professor of Oncology at the Juravinski Cancer Centre in Canada, said that this collaboration, which involved countries severely affected by COVID-19 like China, Italy and Taiwain, provided a wealth of information on how to deal with coronavirus-infected cancer patients.

He said: “Transferring this knowledge to the world was very difficult due to current pressure all doctors of the world are going through. This study would have not been developed without the support provided (by the UAE) to scientific research.”

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