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Derek Raghavan, Antoinette R Tan, E Shannon Story, Earle F Burgess, Laura Musselwhite, Edward S Kim and Peter E Clark

Substantial management changes in endocrine-related malignancies have been required as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a draconian reduction in the screening of asymptomatic subjects, delay in planned surgery and radiotherapy for primary tumors deemed to be indolent, and dose reductions and/or delays in initiation of some systemic therapies. An added key factor has been a patient-initiated delay in the presentation because of the fear of viral infection. Patterns of clinical consultation have changed, including a greater level of virtual visits, physical spacing, masking, staffing changes to ensure a COVID-free population and significant changes in patterns of family involvement. While this has occurred to improve safety from COVID-19 infection, the implications for cancer outcomes have not yet been defined. Based on prior epidemics and financial recessions, it is likely that delayed presentation and treatment of high-grade malignancy will be associated with worse cancer outcomes. Cancer patients are also at increased risk from COVID-19 infection compared to the general population. Pandemic management strategies for patients with tumors of breast, prostate, thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal gland are reviewed.

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Patsy S H Soon, Edward Kim, Cindy K Pon, Anthony J Gill, Katrina Moore, Andrew J Spillane, Diana E Benn and Robert C Baxter

Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) play a role in tumour initiation and progression, possibly by inducing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a series of cellular changes that is known to underlie the process of metastasis. The aim of this study was to determine whether CAFs and surrounding normal breast fibroblasts (NBFs) are able to induce EMT markers and functional changes in breast epithelial cancer cells. Matched pairs of CAFs and NBFs were established from fresh human breast cancer specimens and characterised by assessment of CXCL12 levels, α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) levels and response to doxorubicin. The fibroblasts were then co-cultured with MCF7 cells. Vimentin and E-cadherin expressions were determined in co-cultured MCF7 cells by immunofluorescence and confocal microscopy as well as by western blotting and quantitative PCR. Co-cultured MCF7 cells were also assessed functionally by invasion assay. CAFs secreted higher levels of CXCL12 and expressed higher levels of α-SMA compared with NBFs. CAFs were also less sensitive to doxorubicin as evidenced by less H2AX phosphorylation and reduced apoptosis on flow cytometric analysis of Annexin V compared with NBFs. When co-cultured with MCF7 cells, there was greater vimentin and less E-cadherin expression as well as greater invasiveness in MCF7 cells co-cultured with CAFs compared with those co-cultured with NBFs. CAFs have the ability to induce a greater degree of EMT in MCF7 cell lines, indicating that CAFs contribute to a more malignant breast cancer phenotype and their role in influencing therapy resistance should therefore be considered when treating breast cancer.