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New study investigates impact of COVID-19 on leukaemia patients

16/06/2020

A new study has got under way at Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) looking at the impact of COVID-19 infection on patients undergoing chemotherapy for treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukaemia (AML). 

The PACE study, which was launched by the charity Cure Leukaemia across a number of sites in the UK, aims to understand the incidence of COVID-19 infection during treatment of AML in order to:

  • understand the prevalence of prior COVID-19 infection in AML patients receiving chemotherapy
  • understand the health implications of COVID-19 infection for patients with AML
  • collect information on the seriousness, type and frequency of all infections in patients with AML
  • develop recommendations for the care of patients with AML and additional complications of COVID-19 infection, including those who develop COVID-19 infection during treatment for AML or have recovered from prior COVID-19 infection.

Around 60 people every week in the UK are diagnosed with AML, a cancer that affects the blood cells. It is a disease that can develop very quickly, with abnormal cells accumulating in the blood and bone marrow rapidly.

Left untreated, leukaemia can cause death within weeks. However treatment for AML can put many patients into remission.

Chemotherapy is the primary method of treatment for AML and works by destroying cancerous cells with cytotoxic drugs, which are harmful to the body’s cells. Treatment can result in increased risk of infection and reduced ability to fight infection.

During the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the fatality rate increases with age.

AML predominantly affects the elderly, with a peak in cases in those over the age of 70. There is some early evidence to suggest that patients with cancer are more likely to develop severe COVID-19 disease

PACE is a non-interventional study, led by Professor Simon Stanworth, Consultant Haematologist for NHS Blood and Transplant at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford. The study will recruit 100 NHS patients from up to 34 sites around the UK over a six-month period. Patients will be monitored weekly for a minimum of six months, and then on a three-monthly basis thereafter, for a total of 24 months.

To be eligible patients must have been diagnosed with AML and have a chemotherapy treatment plan; or be in receipt of chemotherapy treatment for AML at the start of the study

Professor Stanworth said: “This remains a very worrying time for many of us as we try to grapple with the full consequences of COVID19 infection in our patients. The study will help us better understand the problems of infections both in patients developing AML, both with and without COVID19 infection, to improve our knowledge base, develop practical recommendations for clinical teams and as a prelude to research in the future

“The Trials Acceleration Programme (TAP), funded by Cure Leukaemia, has provided the infrastructure to open and recruit patients to this study in less than one month and it will also enable the accelerated assessment of these patients in the coming weeks and months. It is essential that programmes like the TAP remain funded to allow PACE, future studies and pioneering clinical trials to open and run to benefit blood cancer patients across the UK.

TAP is a network of UK NHS hospitals, linked by Cure Leukaemia-funded Research Nurses, and coordinated through the central hub at the Cancer Research Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at The University of Birmingham.

The Research Nurses funded by Cure Leukaemia are installed at no cost to the NHS to facilitate the operation of TAP clinical trials at 12 NHS sites, including at OUH’s Churchill Hospital, providing the opportunity for NHS patients to take part in trials that offer promising alternatives to the current standard of care.

In addition, TAP provides pharmaceutical products free of charge and the results of TAP trials are used to further the treatment of blood cancers within the NHS, to benefit the whole of the UK

Watch a video about this research

 

Photo: Professor Simon Stanworth

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