Prior to the pandemic, lung cancer was the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide. Without addressing the impact of COVID-19 on lung cancer services and ensuring long-term resilience, report shows how that trend looks set to increase.
Increasing investments in technology and greater use of real-world data are two of the top recommendations made to healthcare policy makers around the world in a groundbreaking report from the World Economic Forum and the Lung Ambition Alliance.
The report, ‘Learning Lessons from across Europe: Prioritizing Lung Cancer after COVID-19,’ which is available for download at the World Economic Forum website, provides detailed recommendations to help healthcare professionals and policy makers understand the effect of the pandemic on lung cancer services, support patients throughout treatment and drive much-needed improvements in care while ensuring their long-term resilience.
“Innovation in new treatment technologies and real-world data collection and analysis to inform clinical management were highlighted throughout the project as vital to making progress in lung cancer services in the long shadow cast by the pandemic,” said Ricky Sharma, Varian Vice President of Clinical Affairs, who contributed to the creation of the report. “The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on the early detection of lung cancer and other cancers, and it has heightened the need to improve lung cancer outcomes. These recommendations will help deliver change for the future.”
One example of innovation in treatment technology cited by the report is the acceleration of the rollout of stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) across the UK’s National Health Service two years earlier than planned. Treatment requires fewer doses than standard radiotherapy, helping clinics relieve capacity and vulnerable patients avoid unnecessary hospital visits.
Other examples of new methods of data collection, analysis, and virtual monitoring mentioned in the report include the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence systems in Italy to track the health status of patients throughout their treatment journey. In the UK, the use of telemedicine for general medical consultations has risen from 10 percent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to approximately 75 percent during the pandemic peak, according to the report.
Other key recommendations in the report include broadly communicating the similarities in symptoms between lung cancer and COVID-19 and reassuring patients that services are open and safe. It also mentions the use of more targeted screening programs for those at risk, sufficient diagnostic capacity, and improved access to appropriate treatment.
All recommendations in the report are based on the thoughts, experiences, and ideas shared by European healthcare professionals, patient representatives, industry partners, policymakers and others. The project organizers believe the lessons learned are helpful for countries around the world, and plan to run similar projects in other regions in the future.