Let's Do More to Support Ukrainian Refugees with Cancer

David J. Kerr, CBE, MD, DSc


March 23, 2022

This transcript has been edited for clarity.

I'm David Kerr, professor of cancer medicine from the University of Oxford. I'd like to talk today about the extraordinary, integrated approach that the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the European Cancer Organisation (ECO), and clinical colleagues from around the world have undertaken to come together and provide some degree of continuing cancer care for those individuals and families who are fleeing Ukraine.

All of us are watching in horror, aghast at the injustice of the war and the atrocities that are being visited upon the innocent citizens of Ukraine. Among those citizens are men, women, mothers, and fathers, as well as children, with cancer. To say that their care has been disrupted is an extraordinary understatement.

In this brief video, I would like to pay great tribute not only to the way that as a profession, and a community, we've come together to help support them. I am extraordinarily grateful to my colleagues in Eastern Europe for the care that they are providing very close to the front line in Ukraine. The countries bordering Ukraine are being tested and challenged, and they have risen to the challenge. I feel nothing but the utmost pride in what they're doing.

Many colleagues in Poland, Romania, Moldova, the Czech Republic, and Hungary who work in the cancer centers are helping support our Ukrainian brothers and sisters in trying to maintain as much continuity of care as we can.

I was very proud to be president of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), and one of my greatest friends there was Professor Heine Hansen. When Heine was ESMO president and then chief executive of ESMO, he reached out to our friends and colleagues in Eastern Europe and strengthened the bond — in those days, between East and West.

I think we're being repaid for the work that we've done to collaborate together. We see the extraordinary bravery of our colleagues who work in Eastern Europe, and the warmth with which they've reached out to those fleeing Ukraine.

Here are some websites that you can visit so that you can see what is available for Ukrainian patients with cancer as well as how you as an individual can help support and contribute to the war on cancer — although it sounds a feeble term given the circumstances. Our help and support can come from donations of drugs, money, time, energy, support, or welcoming individuals.

My own hospital in Oxford is one of a number of UK hospitals who are prepared to accept and to look after patients with cancer who make the journey to the UK. I and my colleagues are prepared to house these families in our own homes to help provide support if there are children in need who require continuing oncologic care.

If you look at the website, you'll see how it's not only about focusing on the tools of our trade, the daily understanding of how to deliver cancer care. It's also information on safe border crossing, transportation to and from countries at the border with Ukraine, providing accommodation, information on asylum procedures, and legal support, as well as medical support and psychological support.

There are also opportunities to offer support in employment, education, and improving communication. There's an extraordinary package of support. These are not the wealthiest of countries, but they are showing such humanitarian care. I think that we should provide as much support as we can.

One can't imagine the psychological stress that families from Ukraine are under. Families torn and pulled asunder. Brave men going back to defend their own home country. Mothers, daughters, and sons being pulled apart and separated.

Have a look at the ECO-ASCO website. See how you can contribute as an individual and perhaps institutionally. Let's see what we can do as a wider, broader cancer community to support those families who are fleeing from Ukraine and need our help, our care, and our love.

Thanks for listening. Think what you can do to help support this extraordinary effort.

For the time being, Medscapers, over and out. Thank you.

David J. Kerr, CBE, MD, DSc, is a professor of cancer medicine at the University of Oxford. He is recognized internationally for his work in the research and treatment of colorectal cancer and has founded three university spin-out companies: COBRA Therapeutics, Celleron Therapeutics, and Oxford Cancer Biomarkers. In 2002, he was appointed Commander of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II.

Follow Medscape on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.