Evidence-based recommendations for gastrointestinal cancers during the COVID-19 pandemic by the Brazilian Gastrointestinal Tumours Group

22 May 2020
Rachel P Riechelmann, Renata D’Alpino Peixoto, Gustavo Dos Santos Fernandes, Rui F Weschenfelder, Gabriel Prolla, Duilio Rocha Filho, Aline Chaves Andrade, Marcela Crosara, Juliana Florinda M Rego, Rene C Gansl, Felipe Coimbra, Samuel Aguiar Jr, Elisângela Carvalho, Paulo M Hoff, Anelisa K Coutinho

Purpose: As of 2020, the world is facing the great challenge of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic, caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. While the overall mortality is low, the virus is highly virulent and may infect millions of people worldwide. This will consequently burden health systems, particularly by those individuals considered to be at high risk of severe complications from COVID-19. Such risk factors include advanced age, cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, diabetes and cancer. However, few data on the outcomes of cancer patients infected by SARS CoV-2 exist. Therefore, there is a lack of guidance on how to manage cancer patients during the pandemic. We sought to propose specific recommendations about the management of patients with gastrointestinal malignancies.

Methods: The Brazilian Gastrointestinal Tumours Group board of directors and members sought up-to-date scientific literature on each tumour type and discussed all recommendations by virtual meetings to provide evidence-based—and sometimes, expert opinion—recommendation statements. Our objectives were to recommend evidence-based approaches to both treat and minimise the risk of COVID-19 for cancer patients, and simultaneously propose how to decrease the use of hospital resources at a time these resources need to be available to treat COVID-19 patients.

Results: Overall and tumour-specific recommendations were made by stage (including surgical, locoregional, radiotherapy, systemic treatments and follow-up strategies) for the most common gastrointestinal malignancies: esophagus, gastric, pancreas, bile duct, hepatocellular, colorectal, anal cancer and neuroendocrine tumours.

Conclusions: Our recommendations emphasise the importance of treating cancer patients, using the best evidence available, while simultaneously taking into consideration the world-wide health resource hyperutilisation to treat non-cancer COVID-19 patients

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