Publications by authors named "Joanne Khabsa"

11 Publications

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Post-mastectomy Radiation Therapy in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Patients: Analysis of the BEATRICE Trial.

Ann Surg Oncol 2021 Jul 29. Epub 2021 Jul 29.

Department of Radiation Oncology, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon.

Purpose: Post-mastectomy radiation therapy (PMRT) improves locoregional control and overall survival in patients with breast cancer. With the evolution of systemic therapy, the benefit of PMRT in patients with triple-negative disease requires further evaluation.

Patients And Methods: BEATRICE is a phase III randomized clinical trial that examined the efficacy of bevacizumab in patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). The current study is a retrospective analysis of data on patients enrolled and treated with mastectomy and systemic therapy. The primary endpoint was determining the effect of PMRT on locoregional recurrence rates (LRR). Hazard ratios were estimated using Cox regression, and LRR curves were generated by the Kaplan-Meier method.

Results: In total, 940 patients were included in our analysis, of whom 359 (38.2%) received PMRT while 581 (61.8%) did not. At median follow-up of 5 years, no significant difference in LRR was noted between the PMRT and no PMRT groups in node-negative patients (HR = 1.09). Patients with N1 disease had 5-year LRR-free survival of 96% for PMRT versus 91% for no PMRT (HR = 0.46). Most N2 patients received PMRT and had 5-year LRR-free survival of 76%.

Conclusion: PMRT benefit in TNBC patients treated with modern systemic therapy is lower than historical reports. Delivery of PMRT in patients with N1 disease enrolled in the BEATRICE trial was not shown to improve local control. As this might be due to patient selection for PMRT, future randomized controlled trials are required to assess the role of PMRT in this patient population.
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July 2021

Public health effects of travel-related policies on the COVID-19 pandemic: A mixed-methods systematic review.

J Infect 2021 Oct 24;83(4):413-423. Epub 2021 Jul 24.

Evidence-Based Public Health Unit, Center for International Health Protection, Robert Koch Institute, Nordufer. 20, Berlin 13353, Germany. Electronic address:

Objectives: To map travel policies implemented due to COVID-19 during 2020, and conduct a mixed-methods systematic review of health effects of such policies, and related contextual factors.

Design: Policy mapping and systematic review. DATA SOURCES AND ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA: for the policy mapping, we searched websites of relevant government bodies and used data from the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker for a convenient sample of 31 countries across different regions. For the systematic review, we searched Medline (Ovid), PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and COVID-19 specific databases. We included randomized controlled trial, non-randomized studies, modeling studies, and qualitative studies. Two independent reviewers selected studies, abstracted data and assessed risk of bias.

Results: Most countries adopted a total border closure at the start of the pandemic. For the remainder of the year, partial border closure banning arrivals from some countries or regions was the most widely adopted measure, followed by mandatory quarantine and screening of travelers. The systematic search identified 69 eligible studies, including 50 modeling studies. Both observational and modeling evidence suggest that border closure may reduce the number of COVID-19 cases, disease spread across countries and between regions, and slow the progression of the outbreak. These effects are likely to be enhanced when implemented early, and when combined with measures reducing transmission rates in the community. Quarantine of travelers may decrease the number of COVID-19 cases but its effectiveness depends on compliance and enforcement and is more effective if followed by testing, especially when less than 14 day-quarantine is considered. Screening at departure and/or arrival is unlikely to detect a large proportion of cases or to delay an outbreak. Effectiveness of screening may be improved with increased sensitivity of screening tests, awareness of travelers, asymptomatic screening, and exit screening at country source. While four studies on contextual evidence found that the majority of the public is supportive of travel restrictions, they uncovered concerns about the unintended harms of those policies.

Conclusion: Most countries adopted full or partial border closure in response to COVID-19 in 2020. Evidence suggests positive effects on controlling the COVID-19 pandemic for border closure (particularly when implemented early), as well as quarantine of travelers (particularly with higher levels of compliance). While these positive effects are enhanced when implemented in combination with other public health measures, they are associated with concerns by the public regarding some unintended effects.
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October 2021

Does a Positive Surgical Margin After Nephron Sparing Surgery Affect Oncological Outcome in Renal Cell Carcinoma? A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.

Urology 2021 Jun 27. Epub 2021 Jun 27.

Division of Urology and Renal Transplantation, Department of Surgery, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon. Electronic address:

We systematically evaluated the impact of positive surgical margins (PSM) on oncological outcomes after partial nephrectomy for renal cell carcinoma. Forty-two studies comprising 101,153 subjects were included and five distinct meta-analyses were performed. PSM was associated with increased risk of local recurrence (hazard ratio (HR) 6.11-high certainty), metastasis (HR 3.29-moderate certainty), overall relapse (HR 2.25-high certainty), overall mortality (HR 1.30-moderate certainty), and may be associated with increased cancer-specific mortality (HR 1.91-low certainty). Patients with PSM should be counseled for the possibility of additional surgery, novel adjuvant therapies, and more rigorous surveillance.
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June 2021

Views of community pharmacists in Lebanon on the unified prescription: a mixed method study.

East Mediterr Health J 2020 Dec 9;26(12):1539-1547. Epub 2020 Dec 9.

Department of Health Management and Policy, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.

Background: The unified prescription was introduced in Lebanon in 2011; an aim was to save on medication expenditure.

Aims: The aim of this study was to evaluate the views of community pharmacists on the effect and usefulness of the unified prescription.

Methods: A cross-sectional telephone survey of community pharmacists from all governorates of Lebanon was conducted. A questionnaire was used to collect demographic data, pharmacists' views on the effect of the unified prescription on their work, the percentage of prescriptions in which the prescriber had indicated that the medicine should not be substituted with a generic equivalent and the percentage needing clarification from the prescriber. Face-to-face interviews were held with 12 pharmacists to explore their views further.

Results: Of 251 pharmacists interviewed, 56.8% did not think the unified prescription was useful, 34.8% thought it complicated their work and 24.0% that it reduced their autonomy. The in-depth interviews showed that autonomy was perceived to be restricted because of the difficulty in convincing patients to accept a substitute generic medicine, which the unified prescription allowed. The unified prescription complicated pharmacists' work because of increased paperwork and the need for more storage. Pharmacists felt that the large number of prescriptions in which the prescriber had indicated that the medicine should not be substituted undermined the purpose of the unified prescription.

Conclusion: The implementation of the unified prescription was not considered a success by community pharmacists in Lebanon. Efforts are needed to improve communication with prescribers and educate the public about pharmacists' role and generic medicines.
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December 2020

Tobacco Research in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: A Scoping Review of Published Studies from Seven Countries.

J Community Health 2021 02;46(1):225-231

Department of Epidemiology and Population Health, Faculty of Health Sciences, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.

While surveillance on a global scale has been showing a decline in tobacco smoking in the past decade, rates in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR) remained stable with some countries showing rising trends. This study aimed to analyze the landscape of tobacco research in the EMR, present data on publication trends, and identify research gaps and opportunities to guide future tobacco research in the region. We conducted a scoping review of tobacco research in seven countries from January 2000 to December 2013. Three hundred and forty eight studies were identified, the majority of which were published in international journals and in English language. There was an increase in publications over time, with a significant positive linear trend (p = 0.03). Descriptive cross-sectional and case-control studies were the most common study designs (67.0%), and only 8% were longitudinal studies. Papers that reported, in part or solely, on waterpipe tobacco smoking (WTS) constituted 25.6% of the total publication pool. Tobacco consumption was treated as an exposure variable in half of the papers and mostly in relation to cancer and cardiovascular diseases, as an outcome measure in 37.7%, and as a confounding variable in 14.7% of the papers. Studies that examined associations of tobacco with other behaviors (5.3%) were lacking. The scarcity of high-evidence tobacco research in the EMR, together with the relatively deficient data on WTS and associations with other factors warrant the need for discussions on research priority setting and guidance on funding allocations in the region.
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February 2021

Ventilation Techniques and Risk for Transmission of Coronavirus Disease, Including COVID-19: A Living Systematic Review of Multiple Streams of Evidence.

Ann Intern Med 2020 08 22;173(3):204-216. Epub 2020 May 22.

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Liverpool, United Kingdom (R.T., P.G.).

Background: Mechanical ventilation is used to treat respiratory failure in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Purpose: To review multiple streams of evidence regarding the benefits and harms of ventilation techniques for coronavirus infections, including that causing COVID-19.

Data Sources: 21 standard, World Health Organization-specific and COVID-19-specific databases, without language restrictions, until 1 May 2020.

Study Selection: Studies of any design and language comparing different oxygenation approaches in patients with coronavirus infections, including severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), or with hypoxemic respiratory failure. Animal, mechanistic, laboratory, and preclinical evidence was gathered regarding aerosol dispersion of coronavirus. Studies evaluating risk for virus transmission to health care workers from aerosol-generating procedures (AGPs) were included.

Data Extraction: Independent and duplicate screening, data abstraction, and risk-of-bias assessment (GRADE for certainty of evidence and AMSTAR 2 for included systematic reviews).

Data Synthesis: 123 studies were eligible (45 on COVID-19, 70 on SARS, 8 on MERS), but only 5 studies (1 on COVID-19, 3 on SARS, 1 on MERS) adjusted for important confounders. A study in hospitalized patients with COVID-19 reported slightly higher mortality with noninvasive ventilation (NIV) than with invasive mechanical ventilation (IMV), but 2 opposing studies, 1 in patients with MERS and 1 in patients with SARS, suggest a reduction in mortality with NIV (very-low-certainty evidence). Two studies in patients with SARS report a reduction in mortality with NIV compared with no mechanical ventilation (low-certainty evidence). Two systematic reviews suggest a large reduction in mortality with NIV compared with conventional oxygen therapy. Other included studies suggest increased odds of transmission from AGPs.

Limitation: Direct studies in COVID-19 are limited and poorly reported.

Conclusion: Indirect and low-certainty evidence suggests that use of NIV, similar to IMV, probably reduces mortality but may increase the risk for transmission of COVID-19 to health care workers.

Primary Funding Source: World Health Organization. (PROSPERO: CRD42020178187).
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August 2020

Safe management of bodies of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19: a rapid systematic review.

BMJ Glob Health 2020 05;5(5)

Clinical Research Institute, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon

Introduction: Proper strategies to minimise the risk of infection in individuals handling the bodies of deceased persons infected with 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) are urgently needed. The objective of this study was to systematically review the literature to scope and assess the effects of specific strategies for the management of the bodies.

Methods: We searched five general, three Chinese and four coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-specific electronic databases. We searched registries of clinical trials, websites of governmental and other relevant organisations, reference lists of the included papers and relevant systematic reviews, and Epistemonikos for relevant systematic reviews. We included guidance documents providing practical advice on the handling of bodies of deceased persons with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Then, we sought primary evidence of any study design reporting on the efficacy and safety of the identified strategies in coronaviruses. We included evidence relevant to contextual factors (ie, acceptability). A single reviewer extracted data using a pilot-tested form and graded the certainty of the evidence using the GRADE approach. A second reviewer verified the data and assessments.

Results: We identified one study proposing an uncommon strategy for autopsies for patients with severe acute respiratory syndrome. The study provided very low-certainty evidence that it reduced the risk of transmission. We identified 23 guidance documents providing practical advice on the steps of handling the bodies: preparation, packing, and others and advice related to both the handling of the dead bodies and the use of personal protective equipment by individuals handling them. We did not identify COVID-19 evidence relevant to any of these steps.

Conclusion: While a substantive number of guidance documents propose specific strategies, we identified no study providing direct evidence for the effects of any of those strategies. While this review highlights major research gaps, it allows interested entities to build their own guidance.
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May 2020

Non-communicable diseases research output in the Eastern Mediterranean region: an overview of systematic reviews.

BMC Med Res Methodol 2020 03 20;20(1):68. Epub 2020 Mar 20.

Clinical Research Institute, American University of Beirut Medical Center, Beirut, Lebanon.

Background: Rates of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are rapidly rising in the Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMR). Systematic reviews satisfy the demand from practitioners and policy makers for prompt comprehensive evidence. The aim of this study is to review trends in NCD systematic reviews research output and quality by time and place, describe design and focus, and examine gaps in knowledge produced.

Methods: Using the Montori et al. systematic reviews filter, MeSH and keywords were applied to search Medline Ovid, Cochrane Central and Epistemonikos for publications from 1996 until 2015 in the 22 countries of the EMR. The 'Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews', AMSTAR, was used to assess the methodological quality of the papers.

Results: Our search yielded 2439 papers for abstract and title screening, and 89 papers for full text screening. A total of 39 (43.8%) studies included meta-analysis. Most of the papers were judged as being of low AMSTAR quality (83.2%), and only one paper was judged as being of high AMSTAR quality. Whilst annual number of papers increased over the years, the growth was mainly attributed to an increase in low-quality publications approaching in 2015 over four times the number of medium-quality publications. Reviews were significantly more likely to be characterized by higher AMSTAR scores (±SD) when meta-analysis was performed compared to when meta-analysis was not performed (3.4 ± 1.5 vs 2.6 ± 2.0; p-value = 0.034); and when critical appraisal of the included studies was conducted (4.3 ± 2.3 vs 2.5 ± 1.5; p-value = 0.004). Most of the reviews focused on cancer and diabetes as an outcome (25.8% and 24.7%, respectively), and on smoking, dietary habits and physical activity as exposures (15.7%, 12.4%, 9.0%, respectively). There was a blatant deficit in reviews examining associations between behaviors and physiologic factors, notably metabolic conditions.

Conclusions: Systematic reviews research in the EMR region are overwhelmingly of low quality, with gaps in the literature for studies on cardiovascular disease and on associations between behavioral factors and intermediary physiologic parameters. This study raises awareness of the need for high-quality evidence guided by locally driven research agenda responsive to emerging needs in countries of the EMR.
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March 2020

Protocol for the development of guidance for stakeholder engagement in health and healthcare guideline development and implementation.

Syst Rev 2020 02 1;9(1):21. Epub 2020 Feb 1.

Department of Family Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.

Background: Stakeholder engagement has become widely accepted as a necessary component of guideline development and implementation. While frameworks for developing guidelines express the need for those potentially affected by guideline recommendations to be involved in their development, there is a lack of consensus on how this should be done in practice. Further, there is a lack of guidance on how to equitably and meaningfully engage multiple stakeholders. We aim to develop guidance for the meaningful and equitable engagement of multiple stakeholders in guideline development and implementation.

Methods: This will be a multi-stage project. The first stage is to conduct a series of four systematic reviews. These will (1) describe existing guidance and methods for stakeholder engagement in guideline development and implementation, (2) characterize barriers and facilitators to stakeholder engagement in guideline development and implementation, (3) explore the impact of stakeholder engagement on guideline development and implementation, and (4) identify issues related to conflicts of interest when engaging multiple stakeholders in guideline development and implementation.

Discussion: We will collaborate with our multiple and diverse stakeholders to develop guidance for multi-stakeholder engagement in guideline development and implementation. We will use the results of the systematic reviews to develop a candidate list of draft guidance recommendations and will seek broad feedback on the draft guidance via an online survey of guideline developers and external stakeholders. An invited group of representatives from all stakeholder groups will discuss the results of the survey at a consensus meeting which will inform the development of the final guidance papers. Our overall goal is to improve the development of guidelines through meaningful and equitable multi-stakeholder engagement, and subsequently to improve health outcomes and reduce inequities in health.
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February 2020

Financial relationships between patient and consumer representatives and the health industry: A systematic review.

Health Expect 2020 04 19;23(2):483-495. Epub 2019 Dec 19.

Department of Internal Medicine, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon.

Background: Patients and consumers are increasingly engaged in health policymaking, research and drug regulation. Having financial relationships with the health industry creates situations of conflicts of interest (COI) and might compromise their meaningful and unbiased participation.

Objective: To synthesize available evidence on the financial relationships between the health industry and patient and consumer representatives and their organizations.

Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE and EMBASE. We selected studies and abstracted data in duplicate and independently. We reported on outcomes related to financial relationships of individuals with, and/or funding of organizations by the health industry.

Results: We identified a total of 14 510 unique citations, of which 24 reports of 23 studies were eligible. Three studies (13%) addressed the financial relationship of patient and consumer representatives with the health industry. Of these, two examined the proportion of public speakers in drug regulatory processes who have financial relationships; the proportions in the two studies were 25% and 19% respectively. Twenty studies (87%) addressed funding of patient and consumer organizations. The median proportion of organizations that reported funding from the health industry was 62% (IQR: 34%-69%) in questionnaire surveys, and 75% (IQR: 58%-85%) in surveys of their websites. Among organizations for which there was evidence of industry funding, a median proportion of 29% (IQR: 27%-44%) acknowledged on their websites receiving that funding.

Conclusion: Financial relationships between the health industry and patient and consumer representatives and their organizations are common and may not be disclosed. Stricter regulation on disclosure and management is needed.
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April 2020