New York, Sep 20 : A team of US researchers has found that certain treatments for cancer may increase the chance of death if they contract Covid-19.
The study by the researchers at the University of Cincinnati, presented at the European Society for Medical Oncology Virtual Congress 2020, shed light on ways standard anti-cancer treatments may impact outcomes for patients with both cancer and the coronavirus.
"Patients with cancer are susceptible to infection from Covid-19 and subsequent complications.
"They experience higher rates of hospitalisation, up to 40 per cent, severe respiratory illness and death.
Treatment for cancer, within four weeks of (the diagnosis of) Covid-19, was suggested to be associated with higher rates of complications, but less is known about treatment before or after that time frame," said Trisha Wise-Draper, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology Oncology at the UC College of Medicine.
In a previous study from the Covid-19 and Cancer Consortium, with a smaller group of patients, the team found that several factors increased the chance of death including age, sex, history of smoking and other health conditions, including active cancer.
"However, recent cancer treatment was not associated with poor outcomes in the smaller cohort.
Now, we're investigating the correlation between timing of anti-cancer treatment and Covid-19 related complications as well as death in 30 days of a larger number of patients -- over 3,000," Wise-Draper said.
Of the 3,600 patients analyzed from 122 institutions across the country, the team found that 30-day mortality was highest among the cancer patients treated one to three months prior to Covid-19 diagnosis and was highest for those treated with a chemotherapy/immunotherapy combination.
"Death was especially high in those receiving anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies, which are normally used to deplete abnormal B cells common for certain lymphomas, one to three months prior to Covid-19 infection -- a time period for which significant B-cell depletion develops," informed Wise-Draper.
Death was higher for those undergoing active cancer treatments, except for endocrine therapy, when compared to patients untreated within a year prior to Covid-19 diagnosis.
"Any way you slice it, this is not good news for patients who are fighting cancer," she said.
Targeted therapies, especially those causing immune cell depletion, used one to three months before (the diagnosis of) Covid-19, are associated with very high mortality, up to 50 per cent.
"Also, death from any condition or reason in patients with cancer is higher than the general population, including those who have been in remission and have not received treatment in the last year".
The authors said that more research is needed on this topic as they continue to investigate the effect of the pandemic on this group of patients.