ARCADIAN-IoT is proud to announce a significant publication involving one of its project partners. The University Clinic of Navarra (UNAV), a key contributor to ARCADIAN-IOT, has collaborated with several authors on a study titled “Hospital-based proton therapy implementation during the COVID pandemic: early clinical and research experience in a European academic institution.”
The study, published in the Clinical and Translational Oncology journal, presents a European academic institution’s early clinical and research experience regarding the implementation of Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study sheds light on the challenges faced by the institution and highlights the success achieved in continuing patient care and scientific advancements amidst the global health crisis.
In response to the unforeseen impact of the pandemic, the institution quickly adapted its oncology practice to ensure efficient decision-making for multimodal therapy, particularly in cases amenable to multidisciplinary treatment involving radiotherapy. The primary objective was to minimize risks to patients while guaranteeing optimal cancer outcomes.
The study analyzed the activities of the institution’s Proton Beam Therapy Unit from March 2020 to March 2021. Strict clinical care standards were established to address the early diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 infection, in line with the national health authority’s recommendations. The report documents the temporary trends in patient care and research project proposals during this period.
Among the key findings, the study revealed that 3 out of 14 members of the professional staff involved in the intra-hospital Proton Beam Radiation (PBR) process tested positive for COVID-19. Additionally, 4 out of 100 patients tested positive for the virus before initiating PBT, while 7 out of 100 patients tested positive during the mandatory weekly special checkups performed during PBT.
The study also provides an update on the clinical performance of the Proton Beam Therapy Unit, with a focus on the initial 500 patients treated with PBT between March 2020 and November 2022. The patient distribution included 26% pediatric patients, 12% head and neck cancer and central nervous system neoplasms, and 24% re-irradiation indications. By November 2022, the hospital had achieved a plateau in terms of patients under treatment, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had been effectively controlled.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the academic institution managed to sustain both clinical and research activities. The study highlights the successful adaptation of research projects and scientific production to the evolving pandemic situation, with seven research projects based on public funding being activated during this period. Preliminary data on molecular imaging-guided proton therapy in brain tumours and post-irradiation patterns of blood biomarkers are among the reported scientific contributions.
In conclusion, the publication underscores the resilience of hospital-based Proton Beam Therapy in European academic institutions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, the institution showcased its ability to adapt and continue delivering exceptional patient care while pursuing important scientific advancements. As we enter the post-pandemic era, the study emphasizes that the benefits of online learning will shape the future of proton therapy education.