Health and Fitness

Cancer patients who recently received treatment are 75% more likely to die of Covid

Cancer patients who have recently received treatment are at increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Researchers from the University of Texas Cancer Center, one of the nation’s largest cancer centers based in Houston, gathered data on different Covid outcomes for cancer patients depending on the type of treatment they received. 

They found cancer patients who had received any sort of treatment within the past three months were 74 percent more likely to die from the virus and 69 percent more likely to require intensive care unit (ICU) admission than those without cancer. 

Patients who were treated with chemotherapy or chemoimmunotherapy were most at risk, though researchers do not elaborate why.

Surprisingly, people with cancer who had not recently been treated were not at heightened risk of serious outcomes from COVID-19. 

The team believes the findings mean that cancer patients who contract COVID-19  cannot all be treated the same because they may have very different needs depending on recent treatment for their tumors.

Cancer patients who had received treatment within the three months before contracting COVID-19 were at much higher risk from the virus, being 74% more likely to die and 69% more likely to be admitted to an ICU, though patients without recent treatment had the same rates of death and ICU visits as non-cancer patients

Researchers are unsure what to exactly make of these results, though they believe cancer patients should not all be lumped together when being treated for the virus (file image)

Researchers are unsure what to exactly make of these results, though they believe cancer patients should not all be lumped together when being treated for the virus (file image)

‘Patients with no recent cancer treatment had a similar risk of mortality and ICU stay and a lower risk of mechanical ventilation and hospitalization compared with patients without cancer,’ the team wrote. 

‘This finding suggests that patients with cancer represent a heterogenous group, and risk stratification according to recent treatment and the treatment administered has important implications for patients, clinicians, and health care system.’

Researchers, who published their findings on Thursday in JAMA Oncology, gathered data from 507,307 COVID-19 patients in the U.S.

Just under three percent of them, or 14,287, were cancer patients, with 30 percent having recently received treatment for their condition. 

Patients were split into three groups: the control group with non-cancer patients, cancer patients who recently had received treatment, and patients who did not receive treatment. 

‘We found that patients with cancer tended to be older and have more comorbidities than the general population,’ the authors wrote. 

‘Older age, male sex, comorbidities, race and ethnicity, and severe obesity were all associated with adverse outcomes in this study.’

While cancer patients overall had worse health outcomes than the average person, the team found these negative outcomes were concentrated among the patients who had received some sort of treatment. 

For example, cancer patients who had received recent treatment were 74 percent more likely to die from Covid, though the death rate among those who had not recently received treatment was found to be just seven percent lower than average.

People who had received recent cancer treatment were also 69 percent more likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit for Covid treatment, while the ones who had not received treatment had around equal rates to the control group.

Researchers also found that people with certain types of tumors or who had received certain treatments showed the most risk from Covid.

‘Patients with metastatic solid tumors, and particularly those with hematologic malignant neoplasms, had worse outcomes,’ they wrote. 

‘Recent systemic therapy, particularly chemotherapy and chemoimmunotherapy, were associated with adverse outcomes.’

Having cancer, but not getting treatment, seemed to have little impact on whether a person would require a ventilator or hospitalization, and those without recent cancer treatment even had lower rates than the general population.

The results of this study add to an inconsistent set of data experts worldwide have on how cancer, and cancer treatment, affect a person’s Covid outcome. 

‘Data regarding the implications of cancer therapies for outcomes in patients with COVID-19 have been inconsistent,’ they wrote.

‘Several studies have identified an association between recent treatment and adverse outcomes whereas others have not.’

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