Cancer patients who are treated with systemic drug therapies are at a high risk for developing severe COVID-19, according to a new study.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, looked at data from more than 1,200 cancer patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19. The patients were treated at UNC Health from March 2020 to May 2020.
Of the patients studied, 17 percent required hospitalization and 4 percent were admitted to the intensive care unit. The patients who were hospitalized were more likely to have suppressed immune systems, as well as be treated with systemic drug therapies, such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy.
“Our findings underscore the importance of cancer patients taking extra precautions to avoid COVID-19 infection, such as wearing face masks and maintaining social distance,” said study senior author Dr. Benjamin Neel, the director of UNC’s oncology response to COVID-19. “For cancer patients who do develop COVID-19, our findings suggest that those treated with systemic drug therapies are at a higher risk for severe disease and should be closely monitored.”
The study also found that patients who were treated with radiation therapy were not at an increased risk for developing severe COVID-19.
The findings are published in the journal Nature Medicine.
Patients with cancer are at high risk for severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) if treated with systemic drug therapies, according to a new study.
The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, looked at data from nearly 7,000 patients with COVID-19 in the United States.
Of those patients, 1,107 (15.8%) had cancer.
The researchers found that patients with cancer who were treated with systemic drug therapies – such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, or targeted therapy – were more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19, and more likely to require intensive care, than those who were not treated with systemic drug therapies.
Patients with cancer and a suppressed immune system are at high risk for severe COVID-19 if treated with systemic drug therapies, the study found.
“Our findings underscore the need for cancer patients and their clinicians to be aware of the potential risks associated with systemic cancer therapies,” said study author Dr. Joshua Meyer, of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
“Cancer patients should discuss the risks and benefits of their treatments with their clinicians, and weigh the risks and benefits of continuing or discontinuing their treatments in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Meyer said.