DENVER, CO—March 1, 2021 -- On February 17, 2021, the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer joined 110 organizations and cancer centers to send a letter to President Joseph R. Biden, key members of the administration and leading public health officials at state health departments to underscore the importance of prioritizing people with active cancer and survivors of cancer when administering the lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine.
Lung cancer is the largest cause of cancer deaths across the world with approximately 2.2 million diagnoses of lung cancer every year. Responding to the recent COVID-19 pandemic, the medical community has made heroic efforts in response to the global crisis. The response necessitated the reallocation of resources, and in some cases, this has had a detrimental impact on patients with cancer. Patients with lung cancer are acutely affected by this due to the similarity in symptoms of the two conditions and the redeployment of frontline staff and resources from respiratory departments.
There is mounting evidence that patients with lung cancer are at increased risk of severe illness and death if they become infected with the virus. Without the protection offered by a vaccine, patients with lung cancer are at risk of being infected with COVID-19. A COVID-19 diagnosis could also severely impact their treatment options. In fact, research from the TERAVOLT Consortium indicates that if patients with lung cancer require hospital admission due to the virus, mortality rates are as high as 37% in males and 28% in females.
“It is well known that patients suffering from oncological or onco-hematological neoplastic diseases, as well as other pathologies associated with immunosuppression, are particularly at risk, in regard to both the morbidity and the lethality related to respiratory virus infections, such as influenza and SARS-CoV-2,” said IASLC President Tetsuya Mitsudomi, MD.
“Making mass vaccination a priority for every cancer patient, including those with thoracic malignancies, should be a top priority for each country. In addition, for high-risk individuals, screening programs for the early detection of lung cancer can be boosted, leading to the long-term impact of lung cancer mortality. We must protect our patients and continue our efforts to diagnose and treat them in a timely and safe manner,” he said.
As an international organization focused on conquering thoracic cancers worldwide, the IASLC fully supports a global COVID-19 vaccination plan, yet we urge officials to prioritize access to the COVID-19 vaccine for patients and survivors of lung cancer as rapidly as possible.
The IASLC recognizes the global multidisciplinary members who are working on the front lines—studying, diagnosing, and treating lung cancer—all within the COVID-19 environment. We express our sincere gratitude and admiration to you and to all health care professionals working in incredibly difficult circumstances to contain this outbreak and prevent further loss of life.
The IASLC and its members have created additional resources for reference concerning COVID-19 research, webinars, podcasts, and member stories.
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The letter, initiated by the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), urges the Biden administration and public health officials at the state level to continue to prioritize patients with cancer and survivors of cancer in statewide vaccination plans. Read the full letter.
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