February 8, 2022
Last week, the President Biden's Cancer Panel released a report, "Closing Gaps in Cancer Screening: Connecting People, Communities, and Systems to Improve Equity and Access," which supported several of the ACS's recommendations on improving cancer screening. The College supports the President's call for increasing cancer screening across the US and the plan's goals to close gaps in screening.
"It has been a particularly difficult few years for cancer care and screening in the US due to the COVID-19 pandemic," said Heidi Nelson, MD, FACS, Medical Director of ACS Cancer Programs, noting that an estimated 9.4 million missed cancer screening tests occurred across the US in 2020 alone. Furthermore, the director of the National Cancer Institute projected that 10,000 additional cancer deaths from breast and colorectal cancers may result from screenings missed during the pandemic.
"This is an incredibly important effort to improve access and equity for all patients with cancer," said ACS Regent Carol Brown, MD, FACS, chief health equity officer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York City, and a former member of the Biden Cancer Initiative, who attended the February 2 announcement at the White House. "Surgeons play an essential role in the effort to end cancer as we know it through our surgery, our research, and our constant pursuit of innovation to find cures."
To address issues surrounding delayed screenings, ACS Cancer Programs collaborated with the American Cancer Society on a quality improvement initiative and clinical study to accelerate screening numbers in the US. By providing easy-to-adopt plans that leveraged existing guidelines, messaging, and interventions, ACS-accredited programs worked to increase access to and participation in cancer screenings. In total, 748 cancer programs enrolled in the national return-to-screening study, and most identified local screening deficits, particularly in colorectal cancer. Using these results, 814 quality improvement projects were initiated, with the potential to add 70,000 screening tests per month in 2021.
"We applaud the President's commitment to increasing screening as part of his renewed effort to improve outcomes for cancer patients across the nation. We stand ready to do our part to support this critically important work. Our cancer screening efforts show how important it is to have a plan ready that's hard wired to deal with adverse circumstances, such as those we've encountered during the pandemic. While we don't yet know what the full downstream effect will be from screening delays, we are confident that these efforts will make an impact and help improve outcomes for patients," said ACS Executive Director Patricia L. Turner, MD, MBA, FACS.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at the end of January fully authorized the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for use in individuals 18 and older. The Moderna vaccine, administered under an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) since December 2020, was the second vaccine to receive federal approval after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine received full approval in 2021.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice also released its recommendation for use of the Moderna vaccine.
As with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, Moderna offers a two-dose inoculation, which has been shown to be highly effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization, and death. Booster doses also are now recommended for recipients of both approved vaccines.
Last week, the FDA submitted a request to Pfizer and BioNTech to submit a modification to their COVID-19 vaccine EUA to allow its eligibility for administration of a low-dose version in children 6 months to 4 years old. This uncommon step—to have the FDA request the EUA submission, rather than wait for the company to request it—comes as pediatric cases of COVID-19 have surpassed 10 million in recent weeks, hospitalizations increase, and concerns grow over the long-term effects of the virus on children. However, some experts have concerns over the "unusual" step the government has taken in making this request, as reported in Stat.