Since the global emergence of COVID-19, an important question has been what impact the virus will have on the most vulnerable populations, including cancer patients. A late addition to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Virtual Annual Meeting I (27–28 April 2020) is the timely ‘COVID-19 and Cancer’ plenary session. In this article, we round-up key data presented during the session.
The experience of treating patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic in China
Zhang L et al., 2020
In January – February, researchers from three Chinese institutions analyzed data taken from 28 COVID-19-positive cancer patients. A total of 15 (53.6%) patients had severe events with a mortality rate of 28.6%. The risk of severe events increased if anti-tumor therapy was administered within 2 weeks of COVID-19 confirmation. The authors recommended that cancer patients receiving this therapy should be monitored closely.
TERAVOLT (Thoracic cancERs international coVid 19 cOLlaboraTion): first results of a global collaboration to address the impact of COVID-19 in patients with thoracic malignancies
Garassino M, 2020
TERAVOLT presented initial data from eight countries, including 200 thoracic cancer patients with COVID-19. A total of 152 (76%) patients had to be hospitalized but were not likely to be admitted to ICU. The mortality rate was 33.3%. Additional results suggested that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or more than one comorbidity, increased risk of being admitted to hospital.
Outcome of cancer patients infected with COVID-19, including toxicity of cancer treatments
Barlesi F et al., 2020
This report assessed SARS-CoV-2 infection and cancer patient outcomes from March – April in Paris (France). Out of 137 COVID-19-positive cancer patients admitted, 95 (69.3%) patients were discharged, 22 (16.1%) patients were still hospitalized and there had been 20 (14.6%) fatalities. A low rate of COVID-19-treatment-related adverse events was observed. Interestingly, the authors reported that these figures were no higher compared to the global population, suggesting cancer management can continue.
Adapting oncologic practice to COVID19 outbreak: from outpatient triage to risk assessment for specific treatment in Madrid, Spain
Gomez-Martin C, 2020
Carlos Gomez-Martin (Octubre University Hospital, Madrid, Spain) presents data on clinical characteristics and outcomes for the first 63 cancer patients admitted to the hospital for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Overall, lung cancer, neutropenia and acute respiratory distress syndrome were demonstrated to be the predictive factors for mortality. Amongst other conclusions, Gomez-Martin highlighted that until data from randomized studies investigating cancer patients with the virus are released, diagnosis and treatment must be carried out with caution.
Experience in using oncology drugs in patients with COVID-19
Ascierto P, 2020
One of the big questions addressed by the National Institute of Cancer IRCCS Pascale Foundation (Naples, Italy) was: what can immuno-oncologists do in the era of COVID-19? They suggested that the focus should be related to the inflammatory response phase, as adverse events noted with immune checkpoint inhibitors are similar to COVID-19 symptoms. The researchers are carrying out a Phase II clinical trial investigating the use of tocilizumab in cancer patients with COVID-19. The results will be available by the end of April 2020.
Patients with cancer appear more vulnerable to SARS-COV-2: a multi-center study during the COVID-19 outbreak
Cai H et al., 2020
An international collaboration of researchers performed a multi-center analysis of 105 COVID-19-positive cancer patients. A higher risk of severe outcomes was observed in patients with hematological, lung or metastatic cancer, compared with 536 age-matched COVID-19-positive non-cancer patients. In addition, surgery also appeared to increase likelihood of severe events. The authors concluded that cancer patients could be more vulnerable to COVID-19.
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Source: COVID-19 and Cancer plenary session. American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Virtual Annual Meeting I (27–28 April 2020). Session number: VCTPL09