COVID-19 and Cancer: Helpful Resources for Lymphoma Patients

The Weill Cornell Medicine Lymphoma Program team remains committed to supporting and protecting the health and safety of our patient community during this challenging time. With COVID-19 dominating the news and impacting our everyday lives, many people may be left wondering which sources to trust and which recommendations to follow when it comes to understanding the coronavirus and staying safe during this unprecedented time.

We developed this article and compiled a handful of reliable resources designed to help lymphoma patients — at our center and beyond – best navigate this rapidly changing situation.

COVID-19 Basics and General Guidelines

Physicians and staff within the division of Hematology and Oncology at Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital are here to provide guidance and support to our cancer patients and their loved ones. We encourage you to review the information outlined in our COVID-19 and Cancer Guide, where we provide answers to our patient community’s most frequently asked questions. You are also welcome to call our COVID-19 hotline at (646) 697-4000 with questions at any time.

If you have COVID-19 symptoms or suspect that you have been in contact with someone with COVID-19, contact your oncologist for further instruction. If you need in-person medical attention, your doctor will advise you regarding the necessary steps and preparations to protect you and others at the facility before you arrive. Please do not visit your doctor’s office or the emergency department without first being in touch with your healthcare team.

COVID-19 and Lymphoma

In the Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) webinar entitled “Coronavirus and What the Lymphoma Community Needs to Know,” our own Dr. John Leonard reviews the current medical understanding and response to COVID-19 (per March 19, 2020). Dr. Leonard explains why we all must work together to “flatten the curve,” and addresses frequently asked questions surrounding immune system suppression and the coronavirus, lymphoma treatment during the pandemic, the use of masks and transmission of the disease between different groups such as children, the elderly and pets.

The LRF also created a COVID-19 fact sheet complete with prevention tips and questions to ask your oncologist. Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program Chief Dr. Peter Martin and an infectious disease specialist contributed to and medically reviewed this information.

Appointments and Video Visits

Please know that we remain dedicated to the health and wellbeing of our lymphoma community and that continuing to provide world-class cancer care for our oncology patients is important to us. As part of our mission to provide care during this unprecedented time, the Hematology & Oncology division has been implementing extensive patient-centered precautions. These include efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within our facilities and the expansion of virtual video-based appointments.

The Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program continues to be able to offer new and current patients the cancer care they need. We also provide expert, multidisciplinary care for patients with lymphoma who need medical attention for COVID-19.

Video visits allow patients to receive high-quality lymphoma care from the comfort and convenience of their own homes, while adhering to safe social distancing parameters recommended to minimize exposure to other individuals. Our video visit capabilities also extend to patients who wish to schedule a virtual second opinion.

To schedule a video visit, please follow the instructions below. Our team will work with you to obtain any necessary medical records prior to your visit. We will inform you if we believe that you are better suited for an in-person visit.

New Patients
Please call (646) 962-2800.

Existing Patients
Please call (646) 962-2064.

Learn more about video visits. Once your video visit is scheduled, use this guide to connect with your doctor.

Video visits use the same insurance coverage as in-person appointments, and your copayment and deductible still apply.

Visitor Policy

While we recognize the value of family and friends’ support throughout lymphoma diagnosis and treatment, keeping patients and their loved ones safe requires temporary limits on the number of people allowed to accompany each patient to an appointment. Please note that our policies continue to evolve during these unprecedented times. Click here for our latest COVID-19 visitation guidelines.

Additional Resources

Patients are welcome to call the WCM/NYP COVID-19 hotline – (646) 697-4000 – with any questions. Please note that this hotline is available as a public service to provide information only, and not to diagnose, treat or render a medical opinion.

Patients may also consult the following resources.

Ways to Help

It can be easy to feel powerless in the midst of a global pandemic, but there are ways that you can help. In fact, the biggest impact that people – sick or healthy – can make in the fight against COVID-19 is simply to stay at home to curb the spread of disease and its potential to overwhelm the healthcare system.

Those willing and able to contribute to Weill Cornell Medicine and NewYork-Presbyterian’s response to COVID-19 can make a donation to support the purchasing of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), and the physical and emotional wellbeing of healthcare workers on the frontlines of the outbreak.

A fundraiser was also created to provide nutritious, high-quality meals to the New York City doctors, nurses and ancillary staff leading the fight against COVID-19 as part of medical intensive care units.

Lugano Conference: Rituximab + Lenalidomide Prolonged Remission in Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Weill Cornell’s Dr. Rebecca Elstrom is attending the 11th International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma in Lugano, Switzerland and provides this update:

Researchers from MD Anderson Cancer Center reported results of a study of the combination of rituximab and lenalidomide in relapsed and refractory mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) at the 11th International Conference on Malignant Lymphoma on Thursday, June 16. The study included 52 patients treated on a combined phase 1/phase II study. The researchers found that more than half (57.8%) of patients responded to treatment, and most responses lasted for at least 18 months.  The combination was very well tolerated, with few bothersome side effects.  These results are striking for this group of patients, especially as many had not responded to previous therapy.

The combination of rituximab and lenalidomide is of interest because both drugs work, at least in part, by promoting the patient’s immune system to destroy lymphoma cells, and laboratory studies have suggested that each drug may make the other work better.  In addition to mantle cell lymphoma, this combination is being investigated in other B-cell lymphoma subtypes.

Weill Cornell Medical Center is conducting a study of the combination of rituximab and lenalidomide in follicular lymphoma. The study is sponsored by The Cancer and Leukemia Group B (CALGB) and is being led at Weill Cornell  by Dr. Elstrom. (Update: this study is closed to enrollment.)

Weill Cornell Research: Epigenetic Priming to Improve Chemotherapy Response Can Be Safely Administered in AML Patients

By Rebecca Elstrom, MD

Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical Center have demonstrated that epigenetic priming of standard induction chemotherapy can be safely administered in an attempt to improve the response rate of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML).

Epigenetics refers to reversible alterations to DNA or DNA-associated proteins which affect gene expression, and epigenetic processes have been shown by researchers at WCMC and others to be disrupted in many types of cancer.  Drugs currently available and approved by the FDA can target these abnormal epigenetic changes, and pretreatment with these drugs (epigenetic priming) might make cancer cells more vulnerable to chemotherapy.

In the research study recently published in Blood, the Journal of the of the American Society of Hematology, patients were treated with the drug decitabine prior to a standard induction of chemotherapy. The toxicity, or side effects, of chemotherapy plus decitabine was similar to that of chemotherapy alone. Although the primary purpose of the study was to evaluate the safety of adding decitabine, the epigenetic primer, to standard chemotherapy, the overall complete response rate was 83%, suggesting that decitabine-primed induction should be explored as a complementary approach to standard chemotherapy. Click here to read the published research paper.

There is the possibility that the approach of epigenetic priming could translate into therapeutic advantages in other forms of cancers.  Many types of cancers have been shown to develop with abnormal epigenetic changes, including lymphoma.  The lymphoma research group at Weill Cornell Medical Center is  also exploring the strategy of epigenetic priming in patients with newly diagnosed aggressive B cell  non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in hopes of improving on results of standard chemotherapy. Click here to read more about this study. Click here to read the clinical and research profile of Rebecca Elstrom, MD, the physician leading the lymphoma trial.