The state of neuro-oncology during the COVID-19 pandemic: A worldwide assessment

MacIej M. Mrugala*, Quinn T. Ostrom, Shelley M. Pressley, Jennie W. Taylor, Alissa A. Thomas, Jeffrey S. Wefel, Scott L. Coven, Alvina A. Acquaye, Chas Haynes, Sameer Agnihotri, Michael Lim, Katherine B. Peters, Erik P. Sulman, Joanne T. Salcido, Nicholas A. Butowski, Shawn Hervey-Jumper, Alireza Mansouri, Kathy R. Oliver, Alyx B. Porter, Farshad NassiriDavid Schiff, Erin M. Dunbar, Monika E. Hegi, Terri S. Armstrong, Martin J. Van Den Bent, Susan M. Chang, Gelareh Zadeh, Milan G. Chheda*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background:It remains unknown how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed neuro-oncology clinical practice, training, and research efforts. Methods:We performed an international survey of practitioners, scientists, and trainees from 21 neuro-oncology organizations across 6 continents, April 24-May 17, 2020. We assessed clinical practice and research environments, institutional preparedness and support, and perceived impact on patients. Results:Of 582 respondents, 258 (45%) were US-based and 314 (55%) international. Ninety-four percent of participants reported changes in their clinical practice. Ninety-five percent of respondents converted at least some practice to telemedicine. Ten percent of practitioners felt the need to see patients in person, specifically because of billing concerns and pressure from their institutions. Sixty-seven percent of practitioners suspended enrollment for at least one clinical trial, including 62% suspending phase III trial enrollments. More than 50% believed neuro-oncology patients were at increased risk for COVID-19. Seventy-one percent of clinicians feared for their own personal safety or that of their families, specifically because of their clinical duties; 20% had inadequate personal protective equipment. While 69% reported increased stress, 44% received no psychosocial support from their institutions. Thirty-seven percent had salary reductions and 63% of researchers temporarily closed their laboratories. However, the pandemic created positive changes in perceived patient satisfaction, communication quality, and technology use to deliver care and mediate interactions with other practitioners. Conclusions:The pandemic has changed treatment schedules and limited investigational treatment options. Institutional lack of support created clinician and researcher anxiety. Communication with patients was satisfactory. We make recommendations to guide clinical and scientific infrastructure moving forward and address the personal challenges of providers and researchers.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbervdab035
JournalNeuro-Oncology Advances
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) under award numbers R01 NS107833 and R01 NS117149 (to M.G.C.), grant 2015215 from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation (M.G.C.), and the generosity of the friends and families of Larry Stark and Brett Pickle (M.G.C.). Q.T.O. is supported by a Research Training Grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (RP160097T). The funding sources had no role in any decisions regarding the survey questions, analysis, or writing of the manuscript. Acknowledgments

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021


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