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A picture of coronavirus with a image caption 'A United Kingdom pandemic response programme for cancer patients' © Published with permission from Lennard Lee

The University of Oxford has worked incredibly hard as part of the coronavirus pandemic response. Oxford scientists have redirected their expertise to help the UK and the NHS emerge stronger following the last two challenging years. Since 2020, we have additionally ensured that cancer patients are safeguarded and protected. One of the Department of Oncology’s pandemic achievements has been the UK Coronavirus Cancer Programme (UKCCP).

This programme has brought together 250 people across 86 cancer centres and we have focussed this against COVID-19, through 10 research projects. This month, we have delivered another flagship study in the Lancet. This has shown:

  • COVID-19 vaccination is effective in the majority of people with cancer, despite many being immunocompromised due to their cancer and treatments;
  • Cancer patients show a more rapid waning of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness by 3-6 months compared to the general population;
  • Vaccine effectiveness is much lower in people with the blood cancers leukaemia or lymphoma, those with a recent cancer diagnosis and those who have received anti-cancer treatment within the last year;
  •  COVID-19 vaccination boosters are incredibly important for cancer patients.

This project will ensure that the right patients will get better access to new coronavirus treatments, and has informed the May 2022 Department of Health independent government report. The programme is also proud that it is two years since our original project demonstrated that chemotherapy delivery was safe during the pandemic, and following the 2020 Lancet publication led to confidence for cancer prescribing globally.

The UKCCP continues to teach our researchers many lessons. We now know that with other leading light institutions, and the right research project management and leadership, it is possible to align the strengths of the best clinicians and scientists to an area of urgent clinical need. We have also learnt that cancer studies can be even better. We delivered this flagship project in months since its conception. Population-scale, real-world cancer studies could be the new normal and this will deliver advantages for cancer patients well beyond the pandemic.


To find out more or to subscribe to the UKCCP bulletin, visit the UKCCP website.