On March 18, ASCO and the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) hosted a free, open access webinar, “ASCO/ECO Briefing: Cancer Care During the War in Ukraine.” The goal was to provide a forum for:
- Getting an update on the Ukrainian refugee situation
- Hearing reports from oncologists in Ukraine, Poland, and Romania on the impact of the war on the care of patients with cancer
- Sharing resources and networks developed by the American Cancer Society (ACS), ASCO, and ECO to support oncology clinicians and their patients in the region
- Learning about opportunities to assist Ukrainian patients and health care providers.
Since the Russian invasion began, ASCO has been in ongoing communication with oncology care providers in Ukraine and in the neighboring countries that are receiving the majority of Ukrainian refugees, who are estimated to number about a million to date, as well as working with the World Health Organization and other organizations around the world to provide and coordinate assistance.
“We are sickened and distraught over what’s happening, and we all want to do whatever we can to help,” said ASCO Chief Medical Officer Julie R. Gralow, MD, FACP, FASCO. “Working together in partnerships and collaborations, we have the best chance of avoiding duplication of efforts, leveraging each organization’s strengths, and providing the types of support that are truly needed—all with the overarching goal of helping to avoid life-threatening disruptions in the cancer care of these displaced patients.”
The webinar, moderated by ASCO Chief Medical Officer Julie R. Gralow, featured speakers from three countries, ACS, and WHO:
- Andriy Hrynkiv, MD, a surgical oncologist in Ukraine and member of ASCO’s Central & Eastern European Regional Council, provide an update on the situation in Ukraine. “Official statistics regarding damage and losses in Ukraine aren’t keeping pace with reality”, he stated in the opening of his presentation. Russian occupants continue striking Ukrainian cities and villages.” Regarding cancer care in Ukraine, he noted that “Most scheduled oncological care has stopped across the country due to the need of being prepared to receive a lot of injured. A lot of warehouses with medicines were destroyed or unavailable due to logistic problems. The greatest burden will fall on western hospitals and particularly the institution where I work, Lviv Regional Cancer Center, because it's the biggest Cancer Center in Western Ukraine.” (Read an ASCO Connection article adapted from his presentation.)
- Richard Sullivan, MD, PhD, a WHO Emergency Committee member, provided an overview of the refugee situation. “We know from previous refugee crises that many cancer patients are lost,” he stated. “They simply do not present with their symptoms once they become refugees, and that's going to be a really big issue because even if the war stopped tomorrow, it's going to take between a year and a year and a half to rebuild cancer care in Ukraine. And so this has a real medium- and long-term commitment from Europe to look after these patients.”
- Nicoleta Antone, MD, a medical oncologist in Romania and member of ASCO’s Central and Eastern European Regional Council, gave an update on the impact of the war on patients with cancer in Romania. “What I have seen and what we have seen with my colleagues here is that refugees have seen their cancer treatment interrupted,” she explained. “Some of them they were in the middle of the diagnosis, or others may develop a new cancer while they are in the host countries. Most of them, they present with locally advanced disease and they suffer more complications, and some of them have limited resources available to them in respect of medical records.”
- Laura Makaroff, DO, ACS senior vice president, prevention & early detection, discussed ACS’ resources, including its Clinician Volunteer Corps. “The biggest download we're seeing … [is] the ‘Coping With Cancer In an Emergency or Disaster’ resource, so that has been translated and available for use,” she noted. And “the most common reasons we're seeing for calls so far continue to be finding a location to continue treatment or people who need surgery.”
- Jacek Jassem, MD, PhD, president of the Polish Cancer League, provided an overview of what was occurring in Poland. “So the first problem is supply of medication and other materials to Ukraine,” he reported. “Second problem is the relocation of patients directly from Ukraine to centers that declared their willingness to have these patients and to treat these patients there. And the third problem, to link all what we are talking about now, is a good information.”
View ASCO’s Ukraine resources page.
Read ASCO’s statement of support for the Ukrainian cancer community.