The following article features coverage from the European Society for Medical Oncology 2020 virtual meeting. Click here to read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s conference coverage.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative effect on oncologists’ well-being and has increased burnout, according to a prospective study presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Congress 2020.1  

Because “the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on well-being has the potential for serious negative consequences on work, home life, and patient care,” the ESMO Resilience Task Force was created to measure these characteristics and to identify potential solutions, Susana Banerjee, MBBS, MA, PhD, FRCP, of the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in the United Kingdom, and presenter of the study, said.

The study is being conducted as part of a collaboration between ESMO groups and OncoAlert Network. Data were collected from 1520 oncologists who were sent online anonymous surveys in 2 waves: the first between April and May 2020 and the second between July and August 2020. The key outcomes of interest were well-being or risk distress as measured by the 9-item expanded well-being index (eWBI), burnout, and COVID-19 job performance/delivery.

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At baseline, 55% of participants were older than 40 years, 51% were female, 71% were white, and 22% were trainees. Oncologists primarily worked in a general hospital (48%) or a cancer center (41%), and most specialized in medical oncology (70%) or clinical oncology (18%). The majority of participants had at least 10 years of experience (58%).

Although well-being and COVID-19 job performance varied across countries, worse scores for both measures was significantly associated with higher crude COVID-19 mortality rates (P <.05).

eWBI scores increased over time, indicating higher distress and worse well-being. Burnout also increased over time, with 38% of oncologists reporting burnout during the first survey compared with 49% in the second survey (P <.0001). Job performance, however, improved from 34% to 51% between the surveys (P <.0001).

Resilience, feeling valued by the organization, pleasant working conditions, male gender, older age, and change in physical activity were associated with better ratings of well-being. In contrast, factors such as worry about well-being, increased number of work hours, concern about training or career, and the need for self-isolation due to COVID-19 symptoms were associated with greater distress.

Participants indicated that flexible working hours, including working from home, a practical guide book or self-help resource, workshops or courses on coping strategies, and psychological support services would be helpful in the future.

Dr Banerjee said the following in press release associated with her presentation: “As an oncology community, we must work collaboratively, individuals and organizations, to ensure that resources are used in the best way possible to support oncology professionals and make sure that distress and burnout do not increase.”2

Read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s coverage of the ESMO Virtual Congress 2020 by visiting the conference page.


  1. Banerjee S, Lim KHJ, Kamposioras KV, et al. The impact of COVID-19 on oncology professionals: Initial results of the ESMO resilience task force survey collaboration. Presented at: European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Virtual Congress 2020; September 19-21, 2020. LBA70_PR.
  2. European Society for Medical Oncology. COVID-19 pandemic halts cancer care and damages oncologists’ wellbeing [press release]. Published September 14, 2020. Accessed September 19, 2020.