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Important: COVID-19 Booster & Visitor Policy

Ask an Oncology Expert with Dr. Paul Celano

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Laura Zabriskie

December 17, 2020
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, but for cancer patients who may already have weakened immune systems, this is a particularly worrisome time. To help answer your questions, Paul Celano, MD, FACP, FASCO, Herman and Walter Samuelson Medical Director at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Cancer Institute at GBMC, spoke with Mary Beth Marsden in an exclusive and interactive session.

The conversation began with Dr. Celano explaining that he became interested in cancer at a young age when his aunt unfortunately passed away from ovarian cancer. After years of training, he has found that he is especially interested in treating gynecologic, genitourinary, gastrointestinal, and breast malignancies. He also leads the Clinical Trials Program at GBMC.

When asked what drew him to practice at GBMC, Dr. Celano quickly pointed to the community-based, personal care that patients receive. He also mentioned his appreciation for the multidisciplinary approach to care that is used at GBMC. “This is a truly comprehensive cancer program,” he said. “When patients are being cared for at GBMC, it’s not just one person providing treatment, it’s a whole team.” Every week, clinicians from all aspects of cancer care meet to discuss patient cases and work together to create treatment plans for each patient.

Dr. Celano and Mary Beth then shifted the conversation to the COVID-19 pandemic and how it has specifically affected cancer patients. Cancer patients – from their disease, treatments, or both – are immunosuppressed and therefore at a higher risk of infection. Because of this, infection prevention was a major focus in cancer care long before the pandemic hit. “While additional safety measures may change the patient’s experience in the office,” Dr. Celano explained, “what hasn’t changed is our ability to provide critical cancer treatments in a safe manner.”

Clinical trials have also continued at GBMC. These allow patients to have access to the most leading-edge treatment options available. Through clinical trials, patients have the opportunity to explore treatment options not yet approved by the FDA and contribute to medical advancements that may benefit generations to come. “At any given time, GBMC is participating in anywhere from 55 to 60 clinical trials in the Cancer Institute alone,” he described. GBMC is currently participating in a trial that examines cancer patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to better understand how their clinical outcomes may be different than those who have not been infected.

Dr. Celano recognized that some cancer patients may be unsure about the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine, but assured viewers that there is no evidence showing that cancer patients are at a higher risk of negative side effects from the vaccine. He also noted that adjusted visitor policies can cause additional stress for cancer patients receiving treatment. Dr. Celano suggests communicating with your care team and taking advantage of the support resources available to cancer patients. Through Oncology Support Services at GBMC, patients are provided with free counseling, education, and connections to organizations that help them and their families shoulder the burden of a cancer diagnosis.

To learn more about cancer care at GBMC, visit
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