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Pediatric Oncology Services Disrupted During Pandemic

THURSDAY, March 4, 2021 -- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disruptive effect on pediatric oncology services, according to a study published online March 3 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

Dylan Graetz, M.D., from St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and colleagues distributed a cross-sectional survey to pediatric oncology providers worldwide to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on childhood cancer care. The analysis included responses from 311 health care professionals at 213 institutions in 79 countries.

The researchers found that 88 percent of the centers had the capacity to test for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2; per institution, a median of two infections were reported in children with cancer. Seven percent of centers reported complete closure of pediatric hematology-oncology services. Two percent of the centers were no longer evaluating new cases of suspected cancer, while a decrease in newly diagnosed pediatric cancer cases was reported in 43 percent of the remaining cancer centers. Increased treatment abandonment was reported by 34 percent of centers. Changes to cancer care included reduced surgical care, blood product shortages, chemotherapy modifications, and interruptions to radiotherapy (72, 60, 57, and 28 percent, respectively). There was no variation noted in decreased number of new cancer diagnoses based on country income status. Low- and middle-income countries more often had unavailability of chemotherapy agents, treatment abandonment, and interruptions in radiotherapy compared with high-income countries.

"Our findings show the multiple challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic created for childhood cancer care in institutions of all resource levels," the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to Bayer and Y-mAbs Therapeutics.

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