One of the biggest concerns plaguing physicians during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is the uncertainty surrounding the role of treatments for existing ailments on the outcome of the coronavirus infection. A study by researchers from the University of Cincinnati researchers have now found evidence which suggests that certain treatments for cancer may raise the chances of death among cancer patients who contract COVID-19.
Dr. Trisha Wise-Draper, lead author of the study, said in a statement, "Patients with cancer are susceptible to infection from COVID-19 and subsequent complications." She added further they experience increased rates of hospitalization, and up to 40 percent adverse 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," she said.
Role of Cancer Treatment on COVID-19 Mortality
In earlier studies have involving smaller, the researchers discovered that numerous factors raised the chances of death among patients. These included sex, age, history of smoking and other health conditions such as active cancer. Nevertheless, recent cancer treatment was not linked to adverse outcomes in the smaller cohort of participants. Hence, the team decided to look into this factor.
"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," said Dr. Wise-Draper.
Higher Mortality Rates
3,600 COVID-19 patients across 122 institutions in the US were examined. It was found that the 30-day mortality was the highest among cancer patients who had received treatment one to three months before being diagnosed with cancer. Also, the mortality rates were highest among patients who received a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment.
Dr. Wise-Draper explained, "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."
She added that the death rate was higher among those who were under active cancer treatment, except for those undergoing therapy. This was in comparison to patients who remained untreated within a year before being diagnosed with COVID-19.
Odds Not In Favor of Cancer Patients With COVID-19
The oncologist further added that the odds, evaluated in any way, are not in favor of patients ailing with cancer. She highlighted that targeted therapies that lead to depletion of immune cells administered one to three months before COVID-19 diagnosis, were connected to very high mortality rates—nearly 50 percent.
"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," appended Dr. Wise-Draper.
Stressing that research into the subject was paramount, the author emphasized, "We previously reported that immunotherapy was safe for use in patients with cancer and COVID-19, but this reveals more about anti-cancer treatments for patients, showing that immunotherapy combinations and immune-depleting drugs, but not immunotherapy alone, may lead to worse outcomes."