COVID-19 a Threat to Oncology Patients

Currently, the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, is infecting patients globally at a rapid rate. While understanding of this virus continues to evolve, older individuals and those with preexisting conditions are particularly vulnerable. Because of their immunocompromised status, patients with cancer may present a particularly high-risk population. According to a report published in Lancet Oncology, patients with cancer also have poorer outcomes upon infection compared to the general population.

The study evaluated a cohort of 1590 patients in China with COVID-19, including 18 patients with cancer. Patients with cancer were more likely to experience severe events compared to patients without cancer (39% vs 8%; P = .0003). Risk of severe events among patients with cancer was highest among patients who had undergone chemotherapy or surgery in the past month compared to those who had not been treated recently (75% vs 43%). There was no difference in rates of severe events between patients with lung cancer and those with other forms of cancer. Patients with cancer also experienced a more rapid deterioration in clinical status, with a median time to severe events of 13 days, compared to 43 days in patients without cancer (HR 3.56, P < .0001).

The authors of the study concluded that patients with cancer who contract COVID-19 are more likely to have experience severe events, including clinical deterioration, hospitalization, ventilation, and death, compared to patients without cancer. However, in two commentaries published alongside this article, experts had varying opinions, indicating these results should be interpreted cautiously. Of note, patients with cancer often have other health conditions that differentiate them from healthy individuals, such as a history of smoking and a higher median age, which may have skewed results. Because of the observational nature of this reports, additional analysis will be needed to clarify the link between cancer and risk of COVID-19. However, experts agreed that patients with cancer should be counseled to take precautions to protect against infection.

Read more about this article on Medscape Medical News.

Lancet Oncol. 2020 February 14. [Epub ahead of print.]


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