Study to yield ‘deeper insights’ into COVID-19’s impact on cancer care in Latin America
A research effort is underway to evaluate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on hematology and oncology practices across Latin America.
Researchers hope the results will provide a better picture of how clinical practices worldwide are adapting and responding to the challenges imposed by COVID-19, with a specific focus on patients with hematologic and oncologic malignancies for whom timely access to health care, diagnostics and therapeutics is vital.
“Our hope is that oncologists who are already aware of the tremendous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in countries like China, Italy and the United States do not forget about the often-overlooked countries near us in Latin America,” Narjust Duma, MD, assistant professor at University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, member of the medical oncology and lung cancer clinics at UW Carbone Cancer Center, and a HemOnc Today Next Gen Innovator, told Healio.
“We hope to show the firsthand effect this virus has had on oncology practices across Latin America and also create awareness about countries in dire need of our help,” Duma added.
Concern for Latin America
The Hematology Oncology in Latin America (HOLA) COVID-19 Study was conceived by a group of Latina oncologists — Duma, Coral Olazagasti, MD, Ana I. Velazquez Manana, MD, MSc and Carolina Bernabe, MD — who were concerned about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their native countries.
Olazagasti said she and colleagues have experienced firsthand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care across the United States.
“Our diverse clinical experiences as oncologists across New York, California and Wisconsin have highlighted the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color across the U.S., particularly Black and Hispanic populations,” Olazagasti, fellow in the department of hematology and oncology at Zucker School of Medicine in Long Island, New York, told Healio. “As the virus spread to countries around the world, reports and news from Central and South America highlighted the stress created by this pandemic on vulnerable health care systems.
“We believe it is imperative to understand how clinical practices around the world are adapting and responding to the challenges imposed by this pandemic,” Olazagasti added. “As Latina physicians, we hope to increase awareness of the dire needs of our sister countries.”
The cross-sectional, international HOLA COVID-19 Study launched Aug. 4 and recruited practicing hematologists and oncologists across Latin America who received a 47-question survey via email, social media or professional group chats.
Research team members from different countries were key in disseminating the survey link among local physician groups and societies, Velazquez Manana, fellow in the division of hematology and oncology at University of California, San Francisco, told Healio.
“Participants were provided a link to complete the anonymous online questionnaire in their language of preference — Spanish or Portuguese — with questions that explored changes to clinical practice during the pandemic, including topics on the implementation of telemedicine to changes in the treatment of patients with cancer,” Velazquez Manana said. “The cutoff date to complete the survey was Aug. 23 with the hope of recruiting more than 300 participants. We surpassed that goal and we anticipate results during the fall of this year.”
Investigators with whom Healio spoke said they hope the study will serve as an opportunity for oncologists across Latin America to share their experiences and perspectives on the effect of COVID-19 on cancer care in their countries.
“The survey will also provide deeper insights into the adoption of telemedicine and barriers to providing care that clinicians may be experiencing in Latin American countries,” Bernabe, oncologist with Essen Health Care in New York, told Healio. “We additionally hope to understand how clinical practices have changed, particularly how the use of diagnostic tests and therapeutic interventions have been affected.”
Looking ahead, investigators plan to continue research efforts in collaboration with hematologists and oncologists across Latin America.
“COVID-19-specific research is an evolving area of interest to everyone, and further research efforts will depend on the findings of our current study and how the pandemic evolves internationally,” Bernabe said. “It is our hope that the HOLA COVID-19 Study brings about global awareness to the hurdles and barriers many Latin American countries face where resources and government responses may be limited, negatively impacting not only patients but physicians, as well.”
For more information:
Carolina Bernabe, MD, can be reached at email@example.com.
Narjust Duma, MD, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Coral Olazagasti, MD, can be reached at email@example.com.
Ana I. Velazquez Manana, MD, MSc, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.