Can science beat the coronavirus?
A report from a recent online event we hosted about COVID-19 which covered progress on a vaccine, the latest on testing and the impact on cancer patients.
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“Until we know the basic biology of the COVID-19 virus, and until we know how the human body responds to that virus, we cannot plan out a good exit strategy. We are flying blind.”
But he added, “We have many people across the world working on this, trying to work it out very rapidly.”
Cancer treatment severely disrupted
One of the cruellest aspects of the coronavirus is the significant threat it poses to people already battling with existing health conditions.
Offering her unique perspective on this issue was Sarah who spoke about the huge impact coronavirus is having on cancer patients across the country.
“The reality is cancer treatment is severely disrupted,” she said. “Quite a lot of cancer treatment is being delayed or disrupted, and that is of course very distressing to cancer patients.
“But also we’ve seen this radical drop in the number of patients presenting with cancer signs and symptoms at a GP surgery. Clinical leaders across the country describe things as being ‘eerily quiet’ in GP surgeries. We also see many of the screening programmes being paused and screening services disrupted.”
Sarah told the audience this unfortunately exacerbated an existing problem in the UK around late cancer diagnosis.
“If you compare cancer survival rates in the UK to those of comparable health systems, we don’t do as well,” she said. “Our hypothesis is we often diagnose late and sub-optimally treat. Cancer Research UK has been at the forefront of efforts over the past decade or so to encourage earlier diagnosis.”
She added, “We have been working very closely with the NHS and many of the royal colleges to develop new guidance and try to ensure that essential cancer treatment does continue."