COVID RT is a national initiative that aims to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on UK radiotherapy services and patient outcomes.

The acute phase of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in major changes in the patient pathway including:

  • A substantial reduction in new cancer referrals
  • The pausing or cancelling of screening programmes
  • The rapid publication of local and national guidance on changing radiotherapy schedules, with differing levels of evidence to support the recommendations
  • The omission, delay and/or instances of patient refusal of radiotherapy
  • A reduction in surgical capacity leading to an increase in the use of radiotherapy as first definitive treatment or as a bridge to surgery.

Further challenges are anticipated during the recovery phase of the pandemic.

The aim of COVID RT is to capture these changes and understand their impact on radiotherapy services and patient outcomes across the UK. The initiative will not only focus on patients with COVID-19, but all radiotherapy patients, and will be complementary to the ongoing work of CTRad.

At NCRI we are acutely aware of the implications of the coronavirus pandemic on NHS services, staff, patients and carers. CTRad has reacted very quickly under challenging circumstances to define how it can make the most effective contribution in the national effort against COVID-19, ensuring that even at this time of uncertainty we can continue to improve health and quality of life by accelerating progress in cancer-related research through collaboration.

Dr Iain Frame, CEO, National Cancer Research Institute

CTRad is one of NCRI’s flagship initiatives, providing leadership in the national effort to enhance radiotherapy research and making the UK a leader in the global effort to improve outcomes for cancer patients through radiotherapy.

COVID RT was launched on 27 April 2020 at a webinar with 100 attendees from across 35 UK centres. A further webinar has since been held on 4 May 2020 due to the substantial interest in this initiative. The webinar recording and accompanying slides are available on the CTRad website.  It is supported by a number of UK professional groups including the Royal College of Radiologists and Society of Radiographers.

I am so pleased to see such strong support for COVID RT from the community across the UK. Radiotherapy is a very important treatment modality in the curative treatment of cancer. During COVID 19, we are using shorter courses of radiotherapy when this approach is supported by clinical trial data. Patients are also receiving radiotherapy instead of surgery. It is essential that we evaluate patient outcomes and that is exactly what COVID RT will do.

Prof. David Sebag-Montefiore, Chair, NCRI Clinical and Translational Radiotherapy Research Working Group (CTRad) and Professor of Clinical Oncology, University of Leeds and Leeds Cancer Centre

The COVID RT initiative has seen engagement from a number of UK radiotherapy centres. If your centre would like to contribute and hasn’t yet expressed interest please get in touch.