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Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center updates COVID-19 testing, protocols

Roswell Park President and CEO Dr. Candace Johnson says COVID-19 testing targets both staff and patients.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The president and CEO of Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center says they continue to fight COVID-19 on two fronts. 

Dr. Candace Johnson says their top immunologists are leading research efforts, while testing continues on both staff and patients. 

Testing

Testing continues to be an ongoing issue connected to COVID-19. Johnson says the testing being done at Roswell is more targeted because it involves patients also battling cancer, but there is the added burden of testing the staff. 

"We have the capacity to do about 180 tests a day, but what we're trying to do... we're utilizing these tests for our employees and for our patients," Johnson said. "As you can imagine, COVID-19 is scary enough, but now you have cancer... you don't want to go out of your house. We could test you. We could test all of the staff around you so you know you could come here safely. You could have your cancer surgery or your cancer treatment and you know you could come here safely."

Johnson said as of Monday afternoon, they had four patients test positive for COVID-19 with one pending release. She said seven staff members had tested positive early in the pandemic. Johnson says they're confident all contracted the disease from public contact, not from inside Roswell Park itself. 

Research

Johnson said Roswell Park is joining forces with pharmaceutical companies and other local health care providers to test innovative drugs that could allow for COVID-19 treatment without many patients requiring a ventilator. 

"It's kind of like a storm of an immune response in your lungs and you can't breathe," Johnson said. "The only way to keep you alive is put you on a ventilator. So that immune response that's going on in your lungs in a COVID-19 patient. We have our immunologists here which are right on the front lines of understanding the immune response... and there are many drugs that are out there that can help to control that immune response storm that's going on.. We've also collaborated with UB, Great Lakes Health, and the Catholics to be able to provide those drugs in a clinical trial.  

Johnson says that research dollars raised through fundraising events like the Ride for Roswell, 11-Day Power Play, and Empire State Ride among others that benefit the Roswell Park Alliance Foundation are being used to support the COVID-19 research.  

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