Patients with blood cancers are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus than those with solid tumours, according to a major analysis.
The study will help build a much-needed picture of cancer-specific infection and immunity to support treatment planning. Until now, doctors have had very little information about how COVID-19 might impact patients with cancer and many have faced treatment delays.
The findings come from a Cancer Research UK-funded study by Dr Sheeba Irshad of King’s College London and colleagues. They tested blood samples from 76 patients with solid tumours or blood cancers, of whom 41 had COVID-19 . Samples from people without cancer who had COVID-19 were used for comparison.
They found that cancer patients with solid tumours had a similar immune response to those without cancer when infected with COVID-19. Even those with advanced cancers reacted in a similar way to people without cancer, triggering a strong immune response and producing high and sustained levels of antibodies..
Patients with blood cancers, on the other hand, showed a variable response to the virus and had symptoms for up to five times longer than people without blood cancer.
Their immune response was weaker and more closely resembled changes caused by a chronic infection.
Reporting their findings in Cancer Cell, they explain that this chronic infection response was most often seen with B cell related blood cancers. Although some patients had a successful antibody response, some patients failed to clear the virus after developing antibodies while others could not develop antibodies at all.
Dr Irshad said: “Our study provides some confidence and reassurance to care providers that many of our patients with solid cancers will mount a good immune response against the virus, develop antibodies that last and hopefully resume their cancer treatment as soon as possible.
“These conclusions imply that many patients despite being on immunosuppressive therapies will respond satisfactorily to COVID-19 vaccines.
“For patients with blood cancers, especially those with B-cell malignancies, this may not hold true. The next stage of our study will focus on monitoring their response to the vaccines.”
Abdul-Jawad S, Baù L, Alaguthurai T, del Molino del Barrio I, Laing AG, Hayday TS, Monin L, Muñoz-Ruiz M, McDonald L, Francos-Quijorna I, McKenzie D, Davis R, Lorenc A, Chan JNE, Ryan S, Bugallo-Blanco E, Yorke R, Kamdar S, Fish M, Zlatareva I, Vantourout P, Jennings A, Gee S, Doores K, Bailey K, Hazell S, De Naurois J, Moss C, Russell B, Khan AA, Rowley M, Benjamin R, Enting D, Alrifai S, Wu Y, Zhou Y, Barber P, Ng T, Spicer J, Van Hemelrijck M, Kumar M, Vidler J, Lwin Y, Fields P, Karagiannis SN, Coolen ACC, Rigg A, Papa S, Hayday AC, Patten PEM, Irshad S (2021) “Acute immune signatures and their legacies in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 infected cancer patients.” Cancer Cell doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2021.01.001
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