05 June 2020

One of the first studies to investigate COVID-19 in blood cancer patients has found no correlation between active cancer treatment and COVID-19 outcome.

The study, by clinical researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Barts Health NHS Trust, involved 35 adult blood cancer patients who had tested positive for COVID-19. The team found that even if patients were actively having intensive treatment for blood cancer that weakened their immune system, they usually recovered from the virus, as long as they were otherwise fit and well.

The team followed patients for at least 14 days. At the end of the observation period, 60% patients had recovered from COVID-19 infection, while 40% had died. This compares to a case fatality rate for the general population which the team estimated to be 14.4%.

The study, published in the British Journal of Haematology, revealed that age was the most significantly associated factor with COVID-19 infection outcome, with almost all of the patients who died being aged 70 years or older at the time of coronavirus diagnosis. Patients who died also had significantly more co-existing health conditions, such as hypertension, chronic kidney disease or diabetes, than those who recovered from the virus.

Lead study author Dr John Riches from Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary University of London said: “Although this is a small and preliminary study, it is a first step in understanding the risk posed by COVID-19 to patients with blood cancers.

“At the current time, all patients with certain blood cancers are being advised to ‘shield’ to try to minimise the risk of getting the virus,” he said.

“However, this study suggests that the risk of COVID-19 to younger patients with few or no medical conditions aside from their blood cancer is less than the risk to older patients with lots of other medical conditions.”

The data showed no correlation between blood cancer treatment and outcome following COVID-19 infection, and suggest that while patients with blood cancers have poorer outcomes than the general population after COVID-19, the majority still survive.

The authors say the findings need to be confirmed in large national and international registry studies.

Source: Aries JA, Davies JK, Auer RL, Hallam SL, Montoto S, Smith M, Sevillano B, Foggo V, Wrench B, Zegocki K, Agrawal S, Le Dieu R, Truelove E, Erblich T, Araf S, Okosun J, Oakervee H, Cavenagh JD, Gribben JG, Riches JC (2020) “Clinical Outcome of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Haemato-oncology Patients”, British Journal of Haematology, doi: 10.1111/bjh.16852


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