vom 22.04.2020

Corona Pandemic: Leading European cancer centers share knowledge and experience in the care of cancer patients

Cancer patients are particularly at risk for infections because of their disease and its treatment. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus in Europe, cancer centers within a short period were faced with the challenge of minimizing the risk of infection for these patients while at the same time not compromising the provision of the necessary treatments. Seven leading European cancer centers that are part of the Cancer Core Europe (CCE) network, including the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) together with the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg, published their experiences and measures taken in the course of the corona pandemic.

The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the University Hospital Heidelberg (UKHD) and the German Cancer Aid (DKH).

Within a few weeks, European cancer centers had to adapt and reorganise both patient care and their research activities due to the spread of COVID-19. To protect cancer patients, treatments had to be individually adapted to the risk of infection and personal contacts had to be reduced. At the same time, the care of all medically necessary examinations and therapies should be impaired as little as possible. Ongoing clinical studies were reviewed and individually evaluated to determine whether they could be continued. A number of measures were taken to maintain a high standard of care even under the bottlenecks that arose, for example for protective clothing, intensive care beds and infection tests.

Seven leading European cancer centers, including the DKFZ together with the NCT Heidelberg, have now published their experience in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the journal Nature Medicine. All seven centers are part of the CCE network, which was established in 2014 to conduct joint research projects and clinical trials. The aim is to bring innovative cancer therapies into clinical application more quickly throughout Europe.

"In view of the dynamic and multifaceted challenges of the pandemic, an intensive exchange of experience is of particular importance to ensure continuity of cancer care in the CCE centers. Any remaining uncertainties will be addressed in order to discuss both possible solutions and open research questions," explained Stefan Fröhling, Managing Director of the NCT Heidelberg and head of the Department of Translational Medical Oncology at the DKFZ.

"The results will be incorporated into recommendations that cancer centres and hospitals can use to adapt their processes and make them more 'pandemic-proof'. Cooperation with regional and national networks also plays an important role in this process in order to better manage the care of oncological patients," said Michael Baumann, Scientific Director of the DKFZ.

In order to ensure the continuous care of oncological patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, the centres mention the following aspects for medical institutions:

  • Adaptation of clinical activities and structures to protect cancer patients from COVID-19 disease. This includes the adaptation of standard routines due to safety concerns.
  • Continuous communication with patients and ensuring psychosocial care
  • Qualified and trained personnel as well as sufficient capacity to test their own personnel for SARS-CoV-2
  • Continuous evaluation of treatment capacities. Consideration of whether alternative, e.g. shorter treatment schedules or short-term postponements of certain treatments are indicated.
  • Cooperation with regional and national partners to share the care of cancer patients

Original publication
van de Haar, J., Hoes, L.R., Coles, C.E. et al: Caring for patients with cancer in the COVID-19 era. Nature Medicine (2020); https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0874-8

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Press contact:
Dr. Friederike Fellenberg
National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg (NCT)
Press and Public Relations
Im Neuenheimer Feld 460
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 56-5930
Fax: +49 6221 56-5350
Email: friederike.fellenberg@nct-heidelberg.de

Dr. Sibylle Kohlstädt
German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
Communications and Marketing
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 42-2843
Fax: +49 6221 42-2968
Email: s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Doris Rübsam-Brodkorb
Heidelberg University Hospital and Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg
Press and Public Relations
Im Neuenheimer Feld 672
69120 Heidelberg
Tel.: +49 6221 56-5052
Fax: +49 6221 56-4544
Email: doris.ruebsam-brodkorb@med.uni-heidelberg.de

National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg (NCT)
The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and German Cancer Aid. The NCT's goal is to link promising approaches from cancer research with patient care from diagnosis to treatment, aftercare and prevention. This is true for diagnosis and treatment, follow-up care or prevention. The interdisciplinary tumor outpatient clinic is the central element of the NCT. Here, the patients benefit from an individual treatment plan prepared in interdisciplinary expert rounds, so-called tumor boards. Participation in clinical studies provides access to innovative therapies. The NCT thereby acts as a pioneering platform that translates novel research results from the laboratory into clinical practice. The NCT cooperates with self-help groups and supports them in their work. Since 2015, the NCT Heidelberg has maintained a partner site in Dresden. The Hopp Children's Cancer Center (KiTZ) was established in Heidelberg in 2017. The pediatric oncologists at KiTZ work together in parallel structures with the NCT Heidelberg.

German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)
The German Cancer Research Center (Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum, DKFZ) with its more than 3,000 employees is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany. More than 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ investigate how cancer develops, identify cancer risk factors and search for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They are developing new methods to diagnose tumors more precisely and treat cancer patients more successfully. The DKFZ's Cancer Information Service (KID) provides patients, interested citizens and experts with individual answers to all questions on cancer.
Jointly with partners from the university hospitals, the DKFZ operates the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg and Dresden, and the Hopp Children's Tumour Center KiTZ in Heidelberg. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, the DKFZ maintains translational centers at seven university partner locations. NCT and DKTK sites combine excellent universtity medicine with the high-profile research of the DKFZ. They contribute to the endeavor of transferring promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improving the chances of cancer patients.
The DKFZ is 90 percent financed by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the state of Baden-Württemberg. The DKFZ is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.

Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD)
Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) is one of the most important medical centers in Germany; Heidelberg University's Medical Faculty is one of Europe's most prestigious biomedical research facilities. Their shared objective is the development of innovative diagnostics and treatments and their prompt implementation for the benefit of the patient. The hospital and faculty employ approximately 13,000 individuals and are involved in training and qualification. Every year approximately 65,000 patients are treated as inpatients and 56,000 as day patients in more than 50 specialized clinical departments with around 2,000 beds, with more than 1 million patients being treated as outpatients. Together with the German Cancer Research Center and German Cancer Aid, the Heidelberg University Hospital established The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg as the leading oncology center of excellence in Germany. The Heidelberg Curriculum Medicinale (HeiCuMed) is at the forefront of medical training in Germany. At present 3,700 aspiring physicians and doctors are studying in Heidelberg.

Cancer Core Europe
Cancer Core Europe (CCE) is an alliance of seven leading European cancer centres, all of which combine research with patient care. CCE was founded in 2014 to accelerate the development of innovative cancer therapies through close collaboration in translational and clinical research. Its seven member centres collectively treat approximately 350,000 patients annually.