Cancer screening programs almost came to a halt when the Sars-Cov-2 virus hit took hold. Colorectal – and Cervical cancer screening can in some places be done via a hybrid method of phone and kits for self-collection of samples, however for breast cancer this is clearly not an option (Basu et al). The delay in diagnosis and starting treatment can have severe consequences for the patients involved and indirectly also for research.
In Europe alone there are 46 biobanks involved in collecting, storing and managing samples of the aforementioned cancer types that also see their work change. Before Sars-Cov-2 and the lockdowns that were put in place the biobanks would approach patients to donate material to its biobank, which also includes phenotypical information.
In times of lockdown this is only possible in limited circumstances; travel restrictions, being bound to work from home and other priorities minimise the options. In a recently published survey , 43% of the respondents working in a biobank environment had to deal with sudden operational changes and 22% had to work remotely (Alloca et al).
From a cancer screening perspective, new ways of flexible working have been set up and suggestions made by Basu et al to inform the general public on how to recognize certain symptoms have assisted on the potential impact of delayed screenings. Thermo Fisher Scientific is committed to support cancer research wherever possible to become more efficient and evolve quicker than this tenacious disease.
“Never waste a good crisis”. said Sir Winston Churchill; companies that were originally focusing on new cancer treatments, are now making breakthroughs with new vaccines; BionTech and Moderna were working on mRNA as potential new treatment for cancers. Due to the broad scale of the vaccine roll out, ultra low temperature storage is required. It is not yet known if the vaccine is something that will be required to be updated on a regular basis. What we do know is the infrastructure that has been setup to support the vaccine roll out, may also be used for future cancer treatments.
The capacity is there, experience on the logistical side and enormous amounts of data on side effects, efficiency etc. that would under ‘normal’ circumstances have taken many years to collect, is available.
We can now start the discussion on how to move forward in the most efficient and flexible way and support science for the unfortunate people that will hear that they have cancer in the coming years but also have a higher chance for a more effective treatment. Technology wise we can do a lot, let’s bring the right people together and start moving.
Learn more at the Biobanking Learning Center