Invasion in Ukraine: how the cancer community can help
It was impressive to see how quickly global science came together to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic – and much was learned. Academic institutions, big pharma, government and foundations have stepped up to do all they can in an unprecedented way. Two years later, the results are evident as life returns to normal.
The invasion of Ukraine, likewise, is a challenge for global science to respond to human tragedy in a coordinated and timely manner.
There is a window of opportunity to help, there is no time to waste. It’s not too early to do something positive. This includes connecting scientists and clinicians in Ukraine as well as Russia to support those wishing to leave or who are otherwise at risk. Our research labs will benefit from the genius of colleagues with diverse perspectives and viewpoints.
In the clinic, there are opportunities for allied health professionals available while awaiting safe return to their country. With severe nursing shortages in the United States, such an impact could be felt in many hospitals currently working at reduced capacity.
Government funding, including NCI and CDC, professional societies, ACS, etc., should support coordination. Institutions tend to move slowly, but it’s clear that end users can’t wait, and scientists willing to help are ready to help. It would certainly help if visa programs facilitate rapid admission and employment.
Consider how quickly the scientific community has already responded to the Ukrainian challenge:
Russian troops began crossing the Ukrainian border on February 24.
By the morning of February 26 in the Western Hemisphere, more than 100 scientific research laboratories around the world, many of them in the United States, had offered to help Ukrainian researchers, and the list kept growing. I added our lab at Brown University to the list that day, hoping we could help in some way. I was thrilled to see other Brown and Legorreta Cancer Center colleagues, including Jeff Bailey, MD, PhD, Alexandra Deaconescu, PhD, and Tom Bartnikas, MD, PhD, also sign up.
By February 27, the list had grown to over 300, and by the morning of March 2, more than 500 labs had offered to house and support colleagues affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine. A number of them are university cancer research laboratories. As awareness increases, many leading laboratories are offering to help and more research opportunities are opening up in the industry.
As of March 2, the number of refugees was estimated at 660,000 and growing rapidly as the horrific destruction seen across Ukraine continued. And, sadly, on March 3, Ukraine’s first major city, the Black Sea port of Kherson, had fallen. The number of refugees had exceeded one million according to the UN and should eventually reach four million.
A grim picture of death and destruction emerges for what is rapidly happening in Ukrainian cities as they fall under barbaric military rule.
Suggested immediate actions include:
- Emergency funds must be urgently allocated to the United States, especially to support the resettlement and employment of refugees who have already left Ukraine and are now ready to contribute to research and clinical care in the States. -United.
- Cooperation for safe passage, travel, and housing for those wishing to leave Ukraine as well as those who have departed and wish to come to the United States. They will urgently need living expenses, stipends and work authorization.
- Links can be made with refugees and working through the Red Cross, UN and US government could facilitate communication.
- Coordination to match those who wish to leave with those who would help researchers and clinicians. While the list of over 500 labs is general, the cancer effort could be more focused and organized at an early stage.
- Creating a web portal could help Ukrainians or Russians on the Internet directly see and express interest in opportunities. Upcoming national cancer meetings such as the AACR annual meeting in early April this year in New Orleans or others could also help with networking and communication or interviews between interested scientists. A “connectivity map” and AI are tools that come to mind.
- Those linked to Ukraine and Russia could help identify and communicate with those who would leave. It is clear that many Ukrainians and Russians around the world are connected in real time with their colleagues and family members. Greater awareness of help opportunities can be communicated through social media and personal contacts, for speed and efficiency. The impact of social media in terms of disseminating information and connecting professionals should not be underestimated. Hashtags can be incredibly useful.
- The necessary resources and infrastructure are urgently needed. Attention to scientific research and health care impact should be a high priority as humanitarian efforts are underway.
- A unified effort of professional societies, foundations, and the NCI early on could help with university and hospital coordination. There are complexities and things that take time like visas and work permits.
As an example, Brown University actively supports students, faculty, and staff through various in-house services and programs. These include student support services, faculty and staff assistance programs, and academic services.
Externally, Brown University President Christina Paxson updated the university community on existing resources that can help, including partner organizations such as the Scholars at Risk Network and the New University in Exile Consortium, to provide an academic home. sure to Ukrainian scholars. I am proud to be at such a university that is proactively addressing this current global crisis.
I was delighted to see that Governor Daniel McKee of Rhode Island wrote to President Biden on February 28 to welcome Ukrainian refugees to a place of freedom and independence.
Government funding, including NCI and CDC, professional societies, ACS, etc., should support coordination. Institutions tend to move slowly, but it’s clear that end users can’t wait, and scientists willing to help are ready to help.
United States solidarity and strong support for Ukraine against the flagrant, deplorable, and unprovoked aggression was reinforced in President Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1, along with a commitment billion US dollars to help Ukraine. As these and other substantial resources are deployed, let us not forget Ukrainian scientists at all levels, bioengineers, doctors and other health professionals, for the needs continue to grow.
It was very interesting to learn more about the advanced research and clinical oncology capabilities of Ukraine. Amazingly, over the weekend, social media documented at least two bone marrow transplants performed in Kyiv as rockets were falling. It is sad that there is little regard for human life in the current invasion.
There is Russian propaganda claiming that powerful Western oncology groups such as the relatively young @OncoAlert network are refusing to perform bone marrow transplants on Russian children.
Note from Gil Morgan, MD, who leads the OncoAlert Network: It is clear that members of this network who are leaders in the oncology world could also help attract oncologists. It should be noted that it is incredible for anyone to suggest that children with cancer would be denied life-saving bone marrow transplants because of their race, ethnicity or country of birth.
Science is very strong in Ukraine. Here is a history of the General Assembly of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.
Regarding cancer specifically, Ukraine has a National Cancer Institute, which was founded in 1920. Located in Kyiv, this institution is a full member of the International Union Against Cancer. A major oncology journal in Ukraine is ONCOLOGY: Scientific practical review.
In an interview published by WHO on November 11, 2021, Sergii Sikachov, a Ukrainian oncologist, described Ukraine’s challenges in building a modern cancer control system and the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Cancer surgery is moving very quickly,” Sikachov said. “If you know English, you have access to a lot of useful information. You can provide medical care that meets international standards in Ukraine, but we need the right environment to do so.
Ukraine has a complicated history with the Nobel Prize. For decades, Ukrainians were barred from winning Nobel Prizes because Ukraine lacked statehood. These people are listed under Ukraine and have won Nobel Prizes:
- Georges Charpak*, born at the time in Poland, now in UkrainePhysics, 1992
- Roald Hoffman*, born at the time in Poland (Second Polish Republic), now in UkraineChemistry, 1981
- Selman A. Waksman, Physiology or Medicine, 1952
- Shmuel Yosef Agnon, Literature, 1966
- Svetlana Alexievich*, born in UkraineLiterature, 2015
- Ilya Ilyich Mechnikov, Physiology or Medicine, 1908
From what I have seen, it would seem that the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is also a strong candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, given his stature, his courage and his speeches and recent positions. There is a lot of hope for the world when a leader tells his government that he doesn’t want his picture on his walls, but puts up the pictures of his children and thinks of them when he makes his decisions.