Cancer patients at higher risk of mortality from COVID-19 than non-cancer patients

Nov. 17, 2020

In an analysis of 15 research studies involving more than 3,000 patients around the world, researchers found that cancer patients who contracted COVID-19 had a 23 percent risk of mortality compared to non-cancer patients with COVID-19, who had a less than six percent risk, according to a news account from the Imperial College London.

In lung cancer and blood cancer patients with COVID-19, the risk of mortality increased by 30 percent. The researchers also found that patients older than 65 years and male were at a higher risk of worse outcomes, showing that age and gender are important predictors associated with poorer prognosis, although interestingly diabetes and other established risk factors such as cardiovascular disease were not risk factors.

The research, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, was led by researchers at Imperial College London and is the largest global analysis of cancer patients with COVID-19.

Evidence from individual reports suggests that cancer patients infected with COVID-19 may be at an increased risk of hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit, or requiring invasive ventilation, or death. Different cancers, and treatments used to fight them such as chemotherapy, can weaken the body and suppress the immune system.

The team analyzed 15 studies involving 3,019 cancer patients that reported case fatality or severe events of cancer patients with COVID-19 and compared it to studies that recorded the fatality rate of COVID-19 patients without cancer. Fifty-four per cent (1,628) were men and 46 percent (1,388) were women; more than half were over 65 years old. They found that overall case fatality rate was estimated at 22.4 percent in COVID-19 patients with cancer compared to COVID-19 patients without cancer at 5.9 percent. They also found that age and gender appear to be significant risk factors associated with poorer prognosis, which is consistent with other studies.

In patients treated with chemotherapy, surgery or immunotherapy, the case fatality rate was 25.6 percent, 27.6 percent and 24.3 percent, respectively. However, the researchers believe that more evaluation is needed to establish whether these treatments contributed to the fatality rate. In addition, wherever patients were in the world, USA, Europe or Asia, the findings were similar. They recommend that patients to continue their treatments during the pandemic

The overall case fatality rate in the lung cancer patients with COVID-19 was 32.9 percent, higher than that of other cancers but hematologic malignancies, such as myeloma, were also are above 30 percent. This suggests that lung and blood cancer patients with COVID-19 may experience increased difficulty recovering from this disease once it has progressed to a severe stage.

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