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Study Shows How COVID-19 Affects Cancer Patients

Study Shows How COVID-19 Affects Cancer Patients
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Published on June 4, 2020

The interplay of COVID-19 with cancer has caused researchers to work at breakneck speed to understand more about the effects of this virus. A study that was reported on during ASCO20 Virtual last week showed that patients with cancer fare worse when they are diagnosed with COVID-19. Treatment with a combination of the antimalarial and lupus drug hydroxychloroquine (Plaquenil) and the antibiotic azithromycin (Zithromax, Z-Pak, AzaSite or Zmax) is also strongly associated with greater risk of death.

Researchers analyzed data of 928 patients from Spain, Canada and the United States in the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) registry. Among them, 13 percent died within 30 days of COVID-19 diagnosis. Half of patients included in this analysis were hospitalized following onset of symptoms related to COVID-19. Overall, 14 percent of patients were admitted to the intensive care unit. Mechanical ventilation was required for 12 percent of all patients, and additional oxygen was required by 44 percent of patients.  

The study was also published in The Lancet.1 No study is perfect and with the speed at which studies are being conducted, some data is missing, including virus and cancer stage. Also, the discharge of patients doesn’t tell the whole story about the long-term health of patients. Nonetheless, there is a lot of good, helpful information that can be built on.

“The main lesson that we might deduce from both studies is that standard oncological care should be offered if feasible, including chemotherapy administration,” Poortmans, and others said in an editorial in The Lancet.2  

“The cancer care community urgently needs data on the effects of COVID-19, specifically in patients with cancer. How we improve the care we provide these patients and reduce the number of deaths and severe consequences associated with this disease are among the top questions. The COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium registry is a great example of the community quickly coming together to identify and collect the data we need on a large scale,” said ASCO President Howard A. Burris III, MD, FACP, FASCO in a press briefing.3

ASCO and the American Society of Hematology have both launched registries to collect data from patients with cancer among COVID-19 to continue to learn more.4,5  Further studies with more patients will help us understand the long-term effects of this virus on the health of patients at different phases of treatment.

These findings are not surprising and demonstrate a need to maintain a safe distance from others while the pandemic continues. It’s not all bad news, however, as we have demonstrated on Patient Power. Patients in remission or with no evidence of disease fared better.

Continue reviewing the Patient Power content on our site for the latest on COVID-19 as it relates to patients and their caregivers. Dr. William Donnellan and Dr. Meredith McKean from the Sarah Cannon Research Institute at Tennessee Oncology provided helpful information for patients about what to do amid the pandemic at a time when states are starting to open up restaurants, salons and other businesses. For one thing, wearing a mask out in public continues to be essential to safety. And, as Andrew Schorr has talked about, telemedicine is one way to stay in touch with your medical team during your treatment. 

Keep up with all the latest from Patient Power by subscribing to our e-newsletters.

 ~Lauren Evoy Davis 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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  1. Kuderer NM, et al. Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer (CCC19): a cohort study The Lancet. May 28, 2020.
  2. Poortmans P, et al. Covid-19 and Cancer: What do we really know? The Lancet. May 29, 2020.
  3. ASCO20 Virtual. Early Data Show Cancer Progression Associated With Increased Risk of Death in Patients With COVID-19. ASCO. May 28, 2020.
  4. ASCO Registry FAQS. ASCO.
  5. American Society of Hematology. Covid-19 Registry Data Summaries. ASH.


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