06 May 2022

Cancer patients with non-O blood types have an increased risk of developing venous thromboembolism (VTE) beyond three months after their initial diagnosis, according to a new study from a team in Austria.

Existing assessments for VTE risk use factors such as tumour or cancer type to detect those at high risk. However, these assessments still fail to identify many patients who go on to develop life-threatening blood clots.

Dr Cornelia Englisch, of the Medical University of Vienna, said: “We’ve known tumour type helps determine the baseline risk for VTE. But we continue to see that these risk assessments fail to capture all cancer patients who develop these blood clots. By solely assessing tumour type, we miss up to 50% of people who develop VTE.”

The Austrian team investigated the role of non-O blood types in the likelihood of cancer patients developing VTE, because blood type is known to influence VTE risk in the general population.

The team from Medical University of Vienna and Medical University of Graz collected data from 1,708 adult participants with a new or recurrent cancer diagnosis from the Vienna Cancer and Thrombosis Study (CATS) data set.

Participants were grouped first by blood type and then were sorted based on their tumour classification.

The study, published in Blood Advances, suggests blood typing may be another important predictive measure for VTE.

Their results indicated that patients with non-O blood types were more likely to develop VTE beyond three months after their diagnosis or reoccurrence of cancer.

Dr Englisch, first author of the study, noted that the association did not appear during the first three months after diagnosis (or recurrence). She explained this is because cancer treatments increase patients’ likelihood of developing blood clots, which makes blood type a less significant predictor of VTE during the early stages of treatment during the initial three months after diagnosis.

She added that patients with non-O blood type and with tumours outside of the high-risk disease category were most likely to develop blood clots independent of time. This demonstrated that depending solely on tumour type to detect VTE risk could lead to many patients being missed.

“Blood typing is easy to perform, can be done worldwide, and doesn’t require any specialised background knowledge or equipment,” said Dr Englisch.

“And of course, every risk factor that we identify helps us to understand these life-threatening complications in cancer patients better. Perhaps this will create awareness for the role blood types can play as clinical biomarkers.”

These are early findings and the research team hope to go on to better understand the biological mechanisms underlying these findings. They hope that blood typing can serve as a useful tool in risk assessments for cancer-associated VTE in the future.

Source: Englisch C, Moik F, Nopp S, Raderer M, Pabinger I, Ay C (2022) “ABO blood group type and risk of venous thromboembolism in patients with cancer.” Blood Advances, doi:10.1182/bloodadvances.2021006283

Link: https://ashpublications.org/bloodadvances/article/doi/10.1182/bloodadvances.2021006283/484675/ABO-blood-group-type-and-risk-of-venous

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