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Queen’s Professor to lead new European cancer network against COVID-19

The European Cancer Organisation, the largest multiprofessional cancer organisation in Europe, has announced today (Thursday 11 June 2020) the establishment of a Special Network on the impact of COVID-19 on cancer.

corona virus under a microscope

This initiative will be co-led by Professor Mark Lawler, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Digital Health at Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Mirjam CrulVice-President of the European Society of Oncology Pharmacy 

Recent research has shown that the COVID-19 emergency is leading to significant excess deaths in other diseases, including cancer.  The repurposing of health systems and implementation of social distancing measures, including national lockdowns, have had negative effects on patients with cancer globally. These effects included delays in urgent referrals and patients having their cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy postponed, or surgery being delayed. Recognising this, the Special Network will amplify the evidence base of the adverse effects of COVID-19 on cancer care across Europe, as well as facilitate agreed recommendations to put to key decision-makers at national and European levels at this time of urgent need.  

Professor Lawler said: “I am exceedingly proud to be invited with my co-chair Professor Mirjam Crul to lead this initiative. COVID-19 does not respect national borders, so it is important that collectively as Europeans we address the universal challenge of COVID-19 and develop sustainable solutions that protect and benefit the European cancer patient.  This Special Network represents a significant opportunity to stop Cancer becoming the Forgotten C in the battle against COVID-19.” 

Speaking on this important development, Dr Matti Aapro, the European Cancer Organisation President, said: “We need to undo the damage to cancer care that COVID-19 has caused. For this reason, the European Cancer Organisation has launched a Special Network on the impact of COVID-19 on Cancer to collaborate on dealing with the identified challenges. I invite all to sustain the efforts of Board Members Mirjam Crul from the European Society of Oncology Pharmacy and Mark Lawler from Queen’s University Belfast who will lead this work. My team and I are already beholden to the passion and commitment they are displaying for this initiative. 

Professor Stuart Elborn, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences at Queen’s University, said: “I am delighted that my colleague Professor Mark Lawler has been appointed to lead this extremely important European initiative. Professor Lawler’s role in the European Cancer Organisation exemplifies how researchers at Queen’s are key global leaders, helping chart a path through the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure best healthcare for people with cancer.”  

The Special Network will build consensus on agreed actions in Europe on how to both undo the current damage from COVID-19, but also create a more resilient future, in collaboration with many stakeholders besides the Member Societies of the European Cancer Organisation and its Patient Advisory Committee.