From Alpha to Omicron: A Radiation Oncology Network's Biocontainment-Based COVID-19 Experience

Yilin Cao, Valeria Fabre, Roberta Anderson, Gregory Bova, Annette N. Souranis, Valerie Briner, Lawrence R. Kleinberg, Sarah Han-Oh, Jean L. Wright, Akila N. Viswanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: To develop the safest possible environment for treating urgent patients with COVID-19 requiring radiation, we describe the unique construction of negative air pressure computed tomography simulator and linear accelerator treatment vaults in addition to screening, delay, and treatment protocols and their evolution over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods and Materials: Construction of large high-efficiency particulate air filter air-flow systems into existing ductwork in computed tomography simulator rooms and photon and proton treatment vaults was completed to create negative-pressure rooms. An asymptomatic COVID-19 screening protocol was implemented for all patients before initiation of treatment. Patients could undergo simulation and/or treatment in the biocontainment environments according to a predefined priority scale and protocol. Patients treated under the COVID-19 protocol from June 2020 to January 2022 were retrospectively reviewed. Results: Negative air-flow environments were created across a regional network, including a multi-gantry proton therapy unit. In total, 6525 patients were treated from June 2020 through January 2022 across 5 separate centers. The majority of patients with COVID-19 had radiation treatment deferred when deemed safe. A total of 42 patients with COVID-19, who were at highest risk of an adverse outcome should there be a radiation delay, were treated under the COVID-19 biocontainment protocol in contrast to those who were placed on treatment break. For 61.9% of patients, these safety measures mitigated an extended break during treatment. The majority of patients (64.3%) were treated with curative intent. The median number of biocontainment sessions required by each patient was 6 (range, 1-15) before COVID-19 clearance and resumption of treatment in a normal air-flow environment. Conclusions: Constructing negative-pressure environments and developing a COVID-19 biocontainment treatment protocol allowed for the safe treatment of urgent radiation oncology patients with COVID-19 within our department and strengthens future biopreparedness. These biocontainment units set a high standard of safety in radiation oncology during the current or for any future infectious outbreak.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101094
JournalAdvances in Radiation Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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