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CU Cancer Center News and Stories

COVID-19

Research    Community    COVID-19    Cancer

Early Days of COVID-19 Pandemic Brought Increased Anxiety for Some Cancer Survivors

Among the many lessons collectively learned during the initial months of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was this: The experience was uncharted psychological and emotional terrain. It wasn’t uncommon for people across the globe to express uncertainty about how to navigate new stresses and new emotions.


Author Rachel Sauer | Publish Date May 16, 2022
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COVID-19    Vaccinations

Why COVID-19 Vaccines Don’t Work As Well In Immunocompromised Cancer Patients

Despite the growing threat of the Delta variant, many Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 are living life much as they did pre-pandemic — traveling, shopping, going out to eat, and forgoing masks in many situations.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date August 13, 2021
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Research    COVID-19    Clinical Trials

Adjusting to the Virus Has Long-Term Advantages for Clinical Trials

The early days of the COVID-19 pandemic were an adjustment period for medical professionals across the board, but they brought up particular challenges for the Cancer Clinical Trial Office (CCTO) at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. A number of procedures that used to take place in person or in the office — collecting signatures from patients and doctors, delivering medications, submitting data to trial sponsors — suddenly had to be done in a whole new way.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date July 22, 2021
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Research    COVID-19   

Are the COVID-19 Vaccines Good News for Cancer Care?

Long before RNA and mRNA became important parts of the COVID-19 vaccine conversation, researchers at the University of Colorado School of Medicine were studying how RNA biology can improve diagnostics and therapeutics for a range of diseases.


Author Greg Glasgow | Publish Date May 18, 2021
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Patient Care    COVID-19    Colorectal Cancer

The Importance of Getting Your Cancer Screening and Treatment During a Pandemic

There’s never a good time for a cancer diagnosis, but it’s especially difficult in the middle of a pandemic, when concerns about safety compound the worry and anxiety that come along with hearing, “you have cancer.”


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date January 06, 2021
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Research    COVID-19

CU Cell Technologies Shared Resource makes COVID-19 proteins for research, antibody testing

In mid-March, the University of Colorado Cancer Center Cell Technologies Shared Resource shut down along with almost all the other labs and technologies on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Then shared resource director, Steve Anderson, PhD, got an email from a colleague asking if the facility could make COVID-19 proteins. They could: The shared resource has been making proteins for over 15 years.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 29, 2020
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COVID-19

CU Animal Imaging Shared Resource uses MRI to assess COVID-19 severity

One of the few labs on the Anschutz Medical Campus to remain mostly open during the COVID-19 shutdown is the University of Colorado Cancer Center Animal Imaging Shared Resource (AISR).


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 27, 2020
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COVID-19    Support

Mental Health Tips for Patients with Cancer During Covid-19

During the COVID-19 pandemic patients with cancer may be experiencing mental health challenges such as increased anxiety or depression. The psycho-oncology team at the CU Cancer Center is providing tips that can help during these difficult times. 


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 21, 2020
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Innovation    COVID-19

CU Mass Spectrometry Shared Resource works to predict embolism in COVID-19

One of the major complications of severe COVID-19 is blood clots in the lungs – a pulmonary embolism that can block lung function leading to death. In fact, these blockages are similar to those from chronic heart disease, stroke, and even traumatic injuries like a car crash or gunshot wound. In these non-COVID-19 conditions, doctors use drugs to break up and dissolve the clotted blood. Now a team led by Colorado trauma surgeon Gene Moore, MD, is testing a similar approach against the dangerous blood clots associated with COVID-19.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 19, 2020
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COVID-19    Lung Cancer    Cancer

D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD: COVID-19 lung cancer treatment diary

March 5th: The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Colorado is reported in a young man who had been on vacation to Italy before continuing his vacation amid the skiing and snowboarding crowds up in Vail.

March 10th: While I am in my lung cancer clinic, I get an email from Harry Ren, a doctor from the Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital who had worked with us previously. He had heard COVID-19 was in Colorado. Harry warns me to wear protective equipment, to keep myself and the team safe. Over 3,000 Chinese doctors and nurses have gotten sick from COVID-19.

March 11th: The World Health Organization officially labels COVID-19 a pandemic.

March 12th: We admit our first lung cancer patient with COVID-19 symptoms – a potential “patient zero” for us. Bert, short for Roberta, is a wonderful 77-year old retired publisher, who appeared to be responding to her treatment but then developed increasingly difficult breathing and low-grade fevers over a week.1 On her CT scan there are new infiltrates in both lungs. She had received immunotherapy together with her last chemotherapy which can cause inflammation in the lungs. We send blood tests for different infections, including COVID-19.

Bert is stabilized and kept under isolation conditions. Steroids, which can be used to treat inflammation in the lungs, but which could worsen some infections, are kept in reserve while the test results are awaited.

March 16th: All my work meetings have become virtual. From our respective rooms and offices, the clinical and research teams discuss ongoing clinical trial accruals; then new and difficult cases in our weekly Tumor Board.

March 17th: My clinic has changed dramatically. I see a fraction of the patients I would normally see in person; the rest are through telehealth appointments. Our scheduler jokes that tech support for older patients has now become an everyday part of her job.

March 19th: There is little traffic and I get rock star parking at the clinic. We still do not have the COVID-19 results back on Bert. It has been 7 days since she was admitted. Her other infectious tests are all negative.

I do my usual phone call with the thoracic oncology consortium that I direct – 14 University Hospitals and Cancer Centers across the USA and Canada. Patient accruals to clinical trials are down. Everything is becoming bottlenecked. Patients are scared. Staff are scared. However, the feeling on the call is that, as doctors, this is what we went to medical school for.

Because medical situations are the explosions we run toward rather than away from. In medicine, we are used to chaos. We are used to finding and protecting the possible, under a barrage of the uncontrollable, the impossible.

On the call among my colleagues, we all feel as if we are the shepherds of our own flocks. Patients with lung cancer are, in theory, no more susceptible to catch COVID-19 than anyone else, but if they do catch it, they will have a higher risk of dealing with the worst of the symptoms COVID-19 has to offer.

I finish off the day with a Remote Second Opinion from Israel.2 In Haifa, the patient and her children are now faced with not just the stress of her lung cancer growing, but a new kind of stressor. To determine the next best treatment would require a biopsy but going into the hospital to get this done could increase her risks of COVID-19 infection. To not get the biopsy would mean hunkering down with a progressing cancer or switching straight to chemotherapy in the absence of rational alternatives. The risks they are most worried about all relate to catching COVID-19. The risks from her progressing cancer appear clearer.

There are internet adverts for virus killing light-wands. Hydroxy-chloroquine, an anti-malarial and anti-inflammatory agent, is being thrown around as a possible ‘treatment’ for COVID-19 without any debate about the source or extent of the data available to support these claims. I revisit how patients with cancer can fall prey to promises of miraculous results from unproven treatments simply because they so desperately want the good news to be true.

March 21st: I get Bert’s COVID-19 test result back. She is negative. She finally starts steroids and her treatment can move on. It took 9 days to get her results back and we can only test people who are in-patients in the hospital. Any attempt to halt the spread of the virus by isolating known positive people using these tools is doomed to failure.3 Instead we have only one solution for the entire population: Keep distant, keep clean.

March 26th: Colorado as a state is ordered to stay at home. In the Cancer Center, we set in place jeopardy and double, triple and quadruple jeopardy plans. Who covers whose patients in the event one of our lung cancer doctors gets quarantined or sick. We even establish back-ups across other tumor-types in case whole teams are incapacitated.

March 31st: My thoughts on the similarities between how we are all dealing with COVID-19 worldwide and what patients with cancer have already been through from the moment they were diagnosed crystalize after a particular conversation in the clinic. The patient said to me, “Now you know what it’s like:”

This is what not knowing whether you will be well next month or on the verge of death feels like.

This is what not knowing if you will be financially ok or ruined because of matters beyond your control feels like.

This is what worrying that every minor symptom is the start of something far more deadly feels like.

This is what consuming every piece of news, hoping for a breakthrough, knowing that most of the breakthroughs you find are not real, but you still consume them because anything is better than nothing, feels like.

This is what watching others die and wondering if you will be next feels like.

But now we have to worry about COVID-19 as well.

That same day I see Bert again. She looks great and feels great. Her treatment, without the immunotherapy, is set to continue. Life goes on.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 14, 2020
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COVID-19    Melanoma    Climate Science

Sun protection strategies for COVID19 outdoor recreation

During COVID19, getting outside for socially distanced activities is one of the few forms of available recreation. But more people getting out also means more sun exposure, and so during Skin Cancer Awareness Month, University of Colorado Cancer Center reached out to one of our members, Neil Box, PhD, president of the Colorado Melanoma Foundation, to learn about the risks and how to stay safe.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date May 11, 2020
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Education    COVID-19

CCSP Launches COVID-19 toolkit for patient navigators

The Colorado Cancer Screening Program (CCSP) for Patient Navigation is working with the safety net clinics throughout Colorado to help respond to the coronavirus and COVID-19. 

“We are responding to the urgent request from our clinics, community partners and state agencies, indicating navigators need support to best serve clients in the front line and to help support patients with acute chronic conditions” says Andrea (Andi) Dwyer, Director of CCSP. 

Within the CCSP program, feedback from the clinics note that their navigators have had to turn their efforts to working with COVID-19 as the priority. 

“The cancer prevention aspect is not lost as the navigators and clinics, as we work on sharing the importance of rescheduling colonoscopies and if patients have signs and symptoms, they still need to be seen urgently, but we need to support the dire needs of our partners and their patients,” says Dwyer.

Working with Dr. Patricia Valverde, the Primary Investigator (PI) of the Patient Navigator Training Collaborative (PNTC) and the statewide Alliance for Community Health Workers and Patient Navigators, Dwyer and the teams are helping inform the development of supports such as telephone scripts, workflow and assessment tools, technical support and education modules and sessions to better support navigators who are now adapting their positions to work in remote settings, on the front lines and in a much different context. 

“Having the expertise and input from clinicians, programs partners, bio-ethic professionals and policy experts is helping us create the best support for our Colorado navigators,” says Valverde.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date April 23, 2020
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COVID-19    Mental Health

New mental health challenges for cancer patients during COVID-19

Benjamin Brewer, PsyD, is a University of Colorado Cancer Center investigator and health psychologist at the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital Bone Marrow Transplant Program, providing mental health and counseling services for highly immunocompromised patients who are often in the hospital four weeks or more. For these patients, catching COVID-19 could be deadly and the climate of uncertainty adds another layer of stress to an already challenging experience. Here we talk with Dr. Brewer about his patients’ new worries and about how our health system is adapting to meet the mental health needs of cancer patients during COVID-19.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date April 06, 2020
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Patient Care    COVID-19

Leading Chloroquine Scientists Weigh in on Drug As Possible COVID-19 Treatment

French and Australian studies suggest the anti-malarial drug chloroquine could be effective against COVID-19. Promising early results now lead the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to fast-track its own tests, and have spurred the drug’s maker, Bayer, to offer the drug free for treatment. Earlier today, President Trump (among others) touted chloroquine as a ready-to-use treatment for the disease.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date March 19, 2020
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Patient Care    COVID-19

COVID-19 Recommendations for Patients Receiving Anti-Cancer Immunotherapy

We should all be doing our best to keep from catching COVID-19, if not for ourselves and our loved ones, then to avoid passing the disease to people in high-risk populations – like cancer patients taking chemotherapy, which can lower white blood cell counts and undercut the effectiveness of remaining white blood cells, leaving these patients immunocompromised and less able to fight infections like COVID-19.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date March 19, 2020
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COVID-19    Cancer

COVID-19 Recommendations for Cancer Patients

With the first cases of COVID-19 reported in Colorado, CU Cancer Center reached out to Thomas Campbell, MD, Professor in the CU School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases to ask what cancer patients should do to keep themselves safe.


Author Cancer Center | Publish Date March 05, 2020
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CU Cancer Center In the News

Radiology Business

AI Reads of Neck Ultrasounds Could Displace Thyroid Biopsies

news outletRadiology Business
Publish DateJune 15, 2022

After training a machine learning model to analyze ultrasound images of the neck, researchers tested their algorithm and have found it correctly flagged 97% of likely cancerous nodules of the thyroid gland.

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News Medical

Ultrasound-Based AI Classifier of Thyroid Nodules Can Help Rule Out Cancer, Avoid Unnecessary Biopsies

news outletNews Medical
Publish DateJune 14, 2022

Artificial intelligence (AI) can be used to identify thyroid nodules seen on thyroid ultrasound that are very unlikely to be cancerous, reducing a large number of unnecessary biopsies.

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The Scientist

Genetic Mutations Can Be Benign or Cancerous—a New Method to Differentiate Between Them Could Lead to Better Treatments

news outletThe Scientist
Publish DateMay 31, 2022

A CU Cancer Center researcher recently published a study using DNA from thousands of healthy people to help identify disease-causing mutations by using the principle of natural selection.

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Dermatology Times

Sun Bus Helps Bust Melanoma Misconceptions, Provide Screenings

news outletDermatology Times
Publish DateMay 23, 2022

Run by the Colorado Melanoma Foundation, the Sun Bus has provided more than 3,500 free skin cancer screenings throughout the central and southwestern United States. Along the way, providers are learning about melanoma misconceptions.

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