Cancer patients with COVID-19 at higher risk for death

July 23, 2020

COVID-19 patients with cancer have a 16-fold increased mortality risk, compared with cancer patients who are not infected with the virus, a new study suggests.

Overall, the study's findings suggest that people with cancer diagnosed sometime over the past five years, who were also diagnosed with COVID-19, have an increased risk of severe events, with an even greater risk for those with active cancer under recent treatment.

Those were among the findings of a study presented by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Oncology Center of Excellence (OCE) and Syapse, which operates a cancer database. The findings were presented at the American Association of Clinical Research's COVID-19 and Cancer meeting.

The study analyzed more than 212,000 health records of people living with cancer across two major health systems in the Midwestern United States. The analysis found that cancer patients who also had COVID-19 are more likely (compared to those without COVID-19) to have: (1) other health conditions (e.g., kidney failure, obesity and heart disease), and (2) increased rates of hospitalization and invasive mechanical ventilation.

The researchers also underscored evidence for healthcare disparities among cancer patients with COVID-19. For example, the study’s findings suggest that groups experiencing increased COVID-19 risk and increased hospitalization and mechanical ventilation were:

·        Non-Hispanic Black patients with cancer; and

·         Patients with cancer and with median annual household income of zero to $30,000.

 “It’s imperative that we continue to rapidly examine real-world data to address the urgent healthcare challenges brought on by this pandemic,” said Harpreet Singh, MD, Associate Director, Cancer in Older Adults and Special Populations, FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence; and Director, Division of Oncology 2, FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

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