Dear BSBMTCT member,
We hope all is well with you.
We will begin the February newsletter with exactly the same phrase as the January….“Undoubtedly, Covid-19 remains our number 1 priority at present.”
However, there has been tangible progress on a number of fronts, which hopefully is all part of a process where the current wave of the pandemic will decline into a persisting but low level ‘endemic’ seasonal viral infection, more manageable with new ways of working in our clinical environments and living in society in general. Of course, vaccination has been an important part of progress and, as we write, over 18 million have now received their vaccinations in the UK. However, we still have important issues to address in our clinically extremely vulnerable patient population.
We are very pleased to report that BSBMTCT are part of this great effort, alongside other great initiatives within our UK haemato-oncology and EBMT communities. Our BSBMTCT COVID-19 guidelines continue to be updated, now with monthly updates of the vaccination guidelines developed by the Vaccination Sub-committee involving experts in vaccinology, immunology, as well as a bedrock of BSBMTCT leaders, with the latest update published on February 18th on the website https://bsbmtct.org/bsbmtct-and-covid/
We are also very pleased that both general and vaccination BSBMTCT guidelines now feed as a ‘living document’ into the updated NICE guideline NG164 on COVID in HSCT published on February 10th which continue to be an important ‘plain English’ route to highlighting implementing and resourcing changes with local and national NHS colleagues outside our speciality https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng164
Through the hard work of Paul Miller and Thushan de Silva, the BSBMTCT has also been able to contribute an additional HSCT and CART cohort to the national multi-speciality OCTAVE Study of immune response post COVID, which is rapidly becoming activated within the core and other IMPACT centres in the next few weeks.
In the meantime, on a routine level we do not know whether transplant recipients will respond to the vaccines currently available and it would be prudent to continue recommending ‘viral avoidance’ behaviour. Many patients are asking ‘am I immune after the vaccination’ and as yet we have no reliable way to answer that question. Post-vaccination serology may help but as yet this is not being routinely recommended or performed. A reasonable question is whether we should test and we’d welcome feedback from your centre.
Also please continue to report to EBMTs Prospective survey on impact of COVID-19 on HSCT recipients and patients treated with CAR-T cells. There are updated forms now available https://www.ebmt.org/ebmt/news/prospective-survey-impact-covid-19-stem-cell-transplant-recipients-and-patients-treated
We thank Henny Braund and Anthony Nolan for bringing together our community and NHSE colleagues in now routine ‘Monday afternoon’ TEAMS meetings for vital information exchange across the many parts of the country, which often feeds into other initiatives and action via the CRG. In recovery and restoration planning the regional Operational Delivery Networks or ‘clusters’ will be as important as ever supporting the ‘mutual aid’ arrangements locally.
Otherwise, there remains much on the ‘to do’ list; some imminent issues, some still in development…
We try to round off with a dedication to a fantastic colleague in our bulletin each month. This month we specially acknowledge Professor Judith Marsh, who retires this month, for her longstanding and inspirational leadership of the field of aplastic anaemia. Judith has achieved so much during her career – clinically and scientifically – for the immense benefit of patients and colleagues around the UK and worldwide. We will miss you, Judith!
We hope that you all stay safe and well, mentally and physically, we know that the last year has worn many of us down (incredibly we’ve kept going) and we’ve still got many challenging months to come. We hope that we can all maintain the high levels of compassion and support to each other, our colleagues and our patients and their families. The BSBMTCT will do its best to maintain high levels of support and direction for our community, help each other deliver our treatments in our vulnerable patient population as the pandemic moves into the endemic phase.
Our very best wishes,
John Snowden, President
Kim Orchard, Past President
Fiona Dignan, Secretary
Debbie Richardson, Treasurer
Eduardo Olavarria, President Elect
Julia Lee, Head of Registry