News | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | July 31, 2020

Outcomes in Radiotherapy-treated Patients with Cancer During COVID-19

JAMA Oncol. Published online  July 30, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2783

Table 1. JAMA Oncol. Published online  July 30, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2783

July 31, 2020 — An article published in JAMA Oncology addresses the delivery of radiotherapy in 209 patients with cancer during the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China. It states that several health care services have been affected by the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. A delay in diagnosis and treatment can be detrimental to patients with cancer.1,2 However, patients with cancer are also at risk for COVID-19 because of immunosuppressive treatments and recurrent visits to the hospital.3 In this article, we report preliminary outcomes in 209 patients who underwent radiotherapy at the Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University (ZHWU) during the COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Wuhan, China.


All patients who were treated at the Department of Medical and Radiation Oncology, ZHWU, from January 20 to March 5, 2020, were included. Public health measures implemented during the study period included city lockdown (January 23, 2020), cordon sanitaire, traffic restriction, social distancing, and home confinement. We analyzed patient demographics as well as clinical and treatment parameters. Survival status of all patients was updated as of March 12, 2020.

This study was approved by the ZHWU institutional review board (No. 2020041) with waiver of informed consent for the use of aggregated, anonymized patient data.


The Table summarizes the clinical characteristics of 209 patients and their treatment details. Median (interquartile range) age of the patients was 55 (48-64) years; 104 patients (49.8%) were men, and 105 (50.2%) were women. Most patients had thoracic cancer (n = 80 [38.3%], including lung, breast, and esophageal cancers), head and neck cancer (n = 53 [25.4%]), or gastrointestinal or gynecological cancer (n = 54 [25.8%]). Of the patients, 99 (47.4%) received adjuvant radiotherapy, whereas 57 (27.3%) and 53 (25.3%) underwent radical and palliative radiotherapy, respectively; 67 patients (32.1%) received concurrent chemoradiotherapy. All patients had already begun treatment prior to the study start date.

Unfortunately, 112 patients (53.6%) were unable to return for radiotherapy after the lockdown. Among the 67 patients receiving chemoradiotherapy, 3 (4.5%) had completed treatment and 62 (92.5%) discontinued treatment (58 could not return, and 4 discontinued by the physician’s choice); only 2 patients (3.0%) resumed chemoradiotherapy. Before the lockdown, the mean (range) number of patients per day was 188 (160-209). However, these numbers dropped sharply after the date of lockdown and declined with each subsequent week (mean [range] number of patients per day, 12 [2-66]) (Figure).

We recorded only 1 case (0.5%) of confirmed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection during the study period. Although 70 patients (33.5%) had a history of contact with this patient, none of them developed clinical symptoms of COVID-19. Of these 70 patients, 52 (74.2%) were unable to resume radiotherapy after the lockdown, while 18 (25.8%) continued radiotherapy without delay. All patients were alive as of March 12, 2020.


To date, more than 10 000 000 humans have been diagnosed as having COVID-19. This disease is highly infectious, since both asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals can transmit the virus.4,5 Extensive public health measures that are focused on physical distancing and tight containment have been implemented. In the city of Wuhan, China, such measures were effective in limiting virus transmission and reducing daily new COVID-19 cases across all age groups.6 However, there are concerns that these public health measures will affect the delivery of other health care services.

In this article, we share our experience with the COVID-19 lockdown and the delivery of radiotherapy in patients with cancer at ZHWU in Wuhan, China. Caseloads were substantially reduced (a 10-fold drop after lockdown). More than half of the patients in this case series were unable to return to the city for treatment, which is a consequence of the massive human migration (Chunyun) for the Spring Festival that preceded the lockdown. Additionally, physicians were conservative in resuming chemoradiotherapy. Long-term follow-up data may reveal detrimental ramifications of treatment interruption on the survival of these patients with cancer.

Originally published online, July 30, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.2783



1. Kwong  DL, Sham  JS, Chua  DT, Choy  DT, Au  GK, Wu  PM.  The effect of interruptions and prolonged treatment time in radiotherapy for nasopharyngeal carcinoma.   Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1997;39(3):703-710. doi:10.1016/S0360-3016(97)00339-8PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

2. Bleicher  RJ.  Timing and delays in breast cancer evaluation and treatment.   Ann Surg Oncol. 2018;25(10):2829-2838. doi:10.1245/s10434-018-6615-2PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

3. Yu  J, Ouyang  W, Chua  MLK, Xie  C.  SARS-CoV-2 transmission in patients with cancer at a tertiary care hospital in Wuhan, China.   JAMA Oncol. Published online March 25, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.0980
ArticlePubMedGoogle Scholar

4. Li  Q, Guan  X, Wu  P,  et al.  Early transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China, of novel coronavirus–infected pneumonia.   N Engl J Med. 2020;382(13):1199-1207. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2001316PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

5. Song  J-Y, Yun  J-G, Noh  J-Y, Cheong  H-J, Kim  W-J.  Covid-19 in South Korea: challenges of subclinical manifestations.   N Engl J Med. 2020;382(19):1858-1859. doi:10.1056/NEJMc2001801PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

6. Pan  A, Liu  L, Wang  C,  et al.  Association of public health interventions with the epidemiology of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China.   JAMA. 2020;323(19):1-9. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.6130
ArticlePubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref

Related Content

Results of Journal of the American College of Surgeons study should reassure breast cancer patients who experienced surgical postponements due to COVID-19 pandemic

Association between Time to Operation and Pathological Stage in DCIS & ER+ Breast Cancer. Courtesy of American College of Surgeons

News | Women's Health | August 07, 2020
August 7, 2020 — A new br...

An oncologist practices social distancing while talking to a cancer patient. Image courtesy of University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center

News | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | August 07, 2020
August 7, 2020 — When COVID-19 struck, health ca
Global radiotherapy market revenue is set to expand from $7,222.4 million in 2019 to $17,194.4 million by 2030, at an 8.4% CAGR between 2020 and 2030, the key factor driving the market growth is the increasing number of cancer cases, according to the report published by P&S Intelligence.

Image courtesy of Elekta

News | Radiation Therapy | August 06, 2020
August 6, 2020 — Global ...
New Medical Imaging and Data Resource Center will aid AI development and medical advancement to battle COVID-19

Getty Images

News | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | August 05, 2020
August 5, 2020 — The nation’s largest medical imaging associations are working together to develop the new Medical Im
Imaging volumes in hospitals and practices previously slowed by the coronavirus pandemic continue to hold steady, according to new QuickPoLL survey results that gauge how radiologists feel about current business and the impact of COVID-19.
Feature | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | August 03, 2020 | By Melinda Taschetta-Millane
Imaging volumes in hospitals and practices previously slowed by the coronavirus pandemic continue to hold steady, acc
According to the new market research report "Radiation Dose Management Market by Products & Services (Standalone Solutions, Integrated Solutions, Services), Modality (Computed Tomography, Nuclear Medicine), Application (Oncology, Cardiology, Orthopedic), End User (Hospitals) - Global Forecast to 2025", published by MarketsandMarkets, the radiation dose management market is projected to reach USD 422.65 million by 2025 from USD 220.22 million in 2020, at a CAGR of 13.9%.

Courtesy of MarketsandMarkets Research

News | Radiation Dose Management | August 03, 2020
August 3, 2020 — According to the new market research report "...
Siemens AG is continuing to rigorously execute its Vision 2020+ strategy and therefore expressly welcomes Siemens Healthineers AG’s acquisition of a 100 percent stake in Varian Medical Systems, Inc., a U.S. company active in the area of cancer research and therapy.

Getty Images

News | Radiology Business | August 03, 2020
August 3, 2020 — Siemens AG is continuing to rigorously execute its Vision 2020+ strategy and therefore expressly wel
Older Americans may be receiving cancer screenings not recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers.

Getty Images

News | Radiology Imaging | July 31, 2020
July 31, 2020 — Older Americans may be receiving cancer screenings not recommended by the...
A World Health Organization (WHO) rapid advice guide on the use of chest imaging in the diagnosis and management of COVID-19 was published in the journal Radiology.

Getty Images

News | Coronavirus (COVID-19) | July 30, 2020
July 30, 2020 — A World Health Organization (WHO) rapid advice gui