School expert hails COVID-19 cancer patient database

A UK-wide database of cancer patients affected by coronavirus will help to save lives, a University of Dundee expert has said.

Russell Petty, Professor of Medical Oncology at the University’s School of Medicine, says that the UK Cancer Coronavirus Monitoring Network will allow healthcare experts to identify effective treatments for cancer patients impacted by the pandemic.

Dundee has been one of the first UK cancer centres to join the network, which will feed anonymised information on patient care into a database accessible to medical experts across the country.

While cancer patients are at increased risk of contracting COVID-19, there remains uncertainties as to how the virus interacts with cancer, which type of patients may be most vulnerable and the best way to treat them. With data already being submitted, Professor Petty says that the database will quickly allow experts to identify suitable care plans that will help to save lives.

“I am proud that Dundee has been one of the first cancer centres to sign up to this initiative,” he said.

“Sadly, cancer patients are more susceptible to contracting coronavirus. Their immune system is already weakened, particularly in those receiving chemotherapy, but thankfully most patients already take extra precautions to keep themselves away from potential sources of infection.

“What this project will do will allow us to share details of cancer patients that are infected by COVID-19 with other healthcare workers, detailing their treatments and what has proven successful. This should be hugely reassuring for our patients, as it will allow us to identify the best pathway to keep them safe at what is a hugely worrying time.

“Because more than 90 cancer centres in the country are contributing we should expect the database to build up very quickly, allowing us to make the best informed decisions that protect those we care for.”

The UK Cancer Coronavirus Monitoring Network has been founded by the Universities of Birmingham, Oxford and Leeds and is supported by Cancer Research UK, The Association of Cancer Physicians, The Royal College of Radiologists and the UK Chemotherapy Board. It is believed to be the first register of its kind in the world.