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Systemic Anticancer Treatment Not Tied to Higher COVID-19 Mortality

Receipt of immunotherapy compared with no cancer treatment in the four weeks preceding COVID-19 diagnosis associated with lower mortality

MONDAY, Feb. 28, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Cancer patients actively receiving systemic anticancer treatment (SACT) who become infected with COVID-19 do not experience higher COVID-19 mortality, according to a study published online Feb. 21 in JAMA Network Open.

Csilla Várnai, Ph.D., from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, and colleagues evaluated whether SACTs are associated with COVID-19 mortality. The analysis included 2,515 adult patients with an active cancer and a clinical diagnosis of COVID-19 (March 18 to Aug. 1, 2020).

The researchers found that the mortality rate was 38 percent, with an association between higher mortality in patients with hematological malignant neoplasms irrespective of recent SACT, particularly in those with acute leukemias or myelodysplastic syndrome (odds ratio [OR], 2.16) and myeloma or plasmacytoma (OR, 1.53). There was also significantly higher COVID-19-related mortality associated with lung cancer (OR, 1.58). When adjusting for age, sex, and comorbidities, there was no association observed between higher mortality and receiving chemotherapy in the four weeks before COVID-19 diagnosis. Lower mortality was associated with receiving immunotherapy in the four weeks before COVID-19 diagnosis (immunotherapy versus no cancer therapy: OR, 0.52).

“In this study, while patients with cancer had poorer COVID-19 outcomes than other individuals with COVID-19, such difference in outcome may be associated with age, sex, comorbidities, and cancer subtype rather than anticancer treatments,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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