Immunotherapy is Safe for Cancer Patients With COVID-19

Data show that immunotherapy doesn’t necessarily worsen complications for patients with both COVID-19 and cancer.

Immunotherapy is safe for patients with cancer who have coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), according to new data presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Virtual Meeting: COVID-19 and Cancer.

Many complications from COVID-19 are a result of an overactive immune response, according to the study authors. This leads to the production of proteins called cytokines, which can lead to respiratory failure. This makes patients with cancer more susceptible to COVID-19 infection as well as severe complications. Researchers hypothesized that immunotherapy, which is used to treat many patients with cancer, may not be safe to use in patients with COVID-19 due to the possibility of an increased immune response.

Blood samples from patients with cancer were taken from the University of Cincinnati COVID-19 biorepository, according to the press release. Researchers then examined how immune checkpoint inhibitors and other treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, affect the immune cells of COVID-19 patients with cancer.

Preliminary data show that immunotherapy doesn’t necessarily worsen complications for patients with both COVID-19 and cancer. Additionally, researchers said that metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, can reduce cytokine production in patients with COVID-19.

"These are promising, initial findings…Additional research is needed, but our results show that we might be able to treat COVID-19 complications with metformin or a similar drug one day,” Trisha Wise-Draper, PhD, associate professor of medicine, Division of Hematology Oncology, at the UC College of Medicine, UC Health oncologist and medical director of the UC Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office, said in the press release.

Reference:

Immunotherapy safe for patients with COVID-19, cancer (Press Release) July 20, 2020, Cincinnati, OH, ScienceDaily, July 21, 2020