ASCO COVID-19 Data Presented at AACR Virtual Annual Meeting

July 23, 2020

COVID-19 data collection efforts by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) were featured in three separate abstracts during the Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Virtual Meeting: COVID-19 and Cancer this week. Two of the abstracts highlighted COVID-19 data from PracticeNET, and one abstract that was selected for an oral presentation reported on the ASCO Survey on COVID-19 in Oncology (ASCO) Registry.

The oral presentation, "Changes implemented by U.S. oncology practices in response to COVID-19 pandemic: Initial report from the ASCO Registry on COVID-19 and cancer," summarized the initial results from a portion of the Registry that assesses the impact the spread of the coronavirus has had on cancer care delivery.

Specifically, the Registry survey examines changes related to telemedicine usage, patient management, in-office changes for physical distancing, supply shortages, and staffing changes. Initial findings show that telemedicine (used by every participating practice) was new for 90% of practices; no practices are denying new patients; and all practices have established new protocols including calling patients prior to visits and screening for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the practice. Practices are implementing significant and rapid changes designed to maintain patient and staff safety.

ASCO COVID-19 Registry Study Highlights:

  • All practices continue to accept new patients with 70% of practices scheduling as usual and 30% declining some. For patients not on active treatment, most practices (87%) are conducting some or all visits by telemedicine, and 10% of practices postponing some visits.
  • 59% of practices have made modifications to infusion of anti-cancer drugs such as switching to an oral treatment (23%), shortening duration of infusions (26%), or halting infusions (10%).
  • All practices have made physical space changes for the safety of staff and patients.
  • Practices are not seeing drug shortages, but most have shortages of personal protective equipment.
  • Over half of practices (55%) have experienced reductions in staffing, most (39%) due to reduced number of patient visits. Staff contracting COVID-19 has affected 23% of reporting practices, and another 23% have staff whose family responsibilities have changed due to COVID-19.

The two other ASCO abstracts included in the AACR meeting program examined results from 20 hematology/oncology PracticeNET practices to see how telehealth visits compared to in-office visits, and the pandemic's effects on new patient and consult visits. Overall, telehealth visits were reported at lower level-of-service compared to in-office visits by established patients, and there was a decline in new patient and consult visits. More research is needed to know if these changes were due to initial difficulties that arose at the start of the pandemic.

The ASCO Registry is designed to collect both baseline and longitudinal data on how the virus impacts cancer care and cancer patient outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic and into 2021. As more practices join the ASCO Registry, ASCO will continue to provide periodic updates to inform care.

More information about the ASCO Registry is available online, and all U.S. practices are encouraged to enroll. The ASCO Coronavirus Resource Center has helpful tools, and additional data insights will continue to be posted there by ASCO and CancerLinQ.