Patients With Cancer More Likely to Have Severe COVID-19 Infections

Patients with cancer diagnosed more than 24 months ago are at an increased risk of severe COVID-19.

Patients with cancer diagnosed more than 24 months ago are more likely to have a severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection, according to new research published in Frontiers in Oncology.

It can be difficult to diagnose COVID-19 in patients with cancer since symptoms of COVID-19 can look similar to symptoms of cancer or adverse effects of cancer treatment. According to the study authors, this can lead to a missed or delayed COVID-19 diagnosis, which could cause severe infection or higher death rates.

Researchers at King’s College London and Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Foundation Trust analyzed the outcomes of 156 patients with cancer and with confirmed COVID-19 diagnoses between February 29, 2020, and May 12, 2020. Of these patients, 82% presented mild or moderate COVID-19 infection while 18% presented with a severe infection.

Researchers found after a 37-day follow-up, that 22% of the cohort had died from COVID-19 infection. Patients of Asian ethnicity, palliative treatment, or a diagnosis of cancer more than 24 months before onset of COVID-19 symptoms were at a higher risk of dying. The largest proportion (36%) of patients with cancer and with COVID-19 had hematological cancers. Forty percent of patients had stage IV cancer and 46% were diagnosed with malignancy in the last 12 months.

"This real-world observation provides valuable insights into our cancer patients during the COVID pandemic. The data needs to be validated in larger series with longer follow-up of patients to provide more definitive guidance on the management of oncology patients through the COVID-19 outbreak,” consultant medical oncologist, Guy's and St Thomas' and King's College Hospital, Saoirse Dolly, PhD, said in the press release.

Severe COVID-19 infection was associated with fever, dyspnea, gastrointestinal symptoms, or a diagnosis of cancer more than 24 months previously, according to the press release. The study authors concluded that additional research into these findings is still needed.

Reference:

Patients who lived longer with cancer at greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection (News release), London, UK, July 22, 2020, EurekAlert! Accessed July 22, 2020