The impact of COVID-19 highlights the need for innovative therapies in cancer care

4 May 2022

COVID-19 has placed significant pressure on health systems and caused widespread disruption to cancer care – the impact of which will be felt for years to come. People with cancer faced many challenges during the pandemic, including delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Cancer screening programmes have been affected around the world. In the US, there was a shortfall of over 9 million screenings for breast, colorectal and prostate cancer from January to July 2020. It is expected that disruptions to screening programmes will result in the late presentation and diagnosis of cancer at much more advanced or complex stages. Reduced referrals for preliminary cancer diagnoses have led to an increase in people being diagnosed with inoperable or metastatic cancer, and it is unclear how cancer morbidity and mortality will be affected in the future.

The pandemic has also caused delays in cancer treatment, creating a backlog that could take several years to clear. As a result, many people have not been able to access treatment in a timely manner and their cancer may progress during this time.

Despite the pressures of the COVID-19 pandemic, cancer care has continued to innovate and evolve. New approaches, such as radioligand therapy, could provide more options for people with advanced, complex or metastatic cancers. Concerted efforts should therefore be made to ensure the sustainable and timely integration of such therapies into cancer care services to ensure they are available to all people who may be eligible, without putting undue strain on the health system.

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Oriana Carswell, Project Officer at The Health Policy Partnership