Cancer Cure Might Make COVID-19 Considerably less, Not More, Severe

Janelle A

Cancer remedies which includes chemotherapy, biological agents, and immunotherapy seem to alter a patient’s immune reaction to COVID-19 in these types of a way as to make the infection less intense if these clients turn into infected, indicates a modest review from Israel.

The staff as opposed the response to SARS-CoV-2 virus in a group of individuals with cancer on lively remedy with those people noticed in health care personnel, and discovered dissimilarities in the immune mobile profiles that recommend a diverse inflammatory reaction to the virus in the two teams. Despite the fact that the sample dimensions was little, the change was putting. 

The analyze was released on line now in the journal Cancers.

The speculation is that cancer patients are significantly less able to mount a sturdy inflammatory response to COVID-19 mainly because of treatment-relevant variations to their immune system, explains senior creator Irit Ben Aharon MD, PhD, head of the division of oncology at Rambam Health and fitness Treatment Campus in Haifa, Israel.

As this sort of, individuals with cancer less than remedy may perhaps be significantly less susceptible to have a “cytokine storm” response that is brought on by an overly robust immune reaction to the virus, which contributes to a sizeable proportion of the morbidity and mortality viewed in COVID-19-contaminated clients.

An qualified approached for remark warned that the quantities in this examine are as well little to draw any conclusions, but claimed that the principle is “biologically plausible.”

Mistaken Assumption?

“At the commencing of the pandemic, every person was instructed that there had been many higher-danger populations for COVID-19, among the them cancer clients because they are immunosuppressed and they are also predisposed to get other viruses, so it was assumed they would be predisposed to get COVID-19 as nicely,” Ben-Aharon told Medscape Clinical Information.

“So we required to see if this was real due to the fact that assumption has been translated into an virtually stress circumstance the place cancer sufferers would rather not get procedure simply because they are frightened they’ll develop into ill from COVID-19,” she additional.

“But what we observed was that the incidence of COVID-19 was not diverse in the sample of most cancers people we examined in comparison with health care workers — at minimum not in asymptomatic individuals — and there was a change in the immune cell profile amongst these two groups as properly, ” Ben-Aharon commented.

“This variance could translate into a different inflammatory reaction [to COVID-19], though this wants to be analyzed further more,” she included.

Research Aspects

Importantly, the review was done involving the conclusion of March and the beginning of June, so it demonstrates only what was likely on through that time interval in Israel, as Ben-Aharon stressed. Throughout that time period of time, Israel was in overall lockdown.

Serology was carried out on 164 individuals with most cancers (92 feminine, median age, 63 decades) getting lively intravenous cure and on 107 healthcare personnel (88 female, median age, 41 many years) at the Rambam Wellbeing Care Campus oncology middle. Some 60% of the client group experienced metastatic condition and the remaining 40% experienced locoregional cancer.

Practically a few quarters of cancer sufferers have been acquiring chemotherapy, one particular third had been getting biological remedy, and 1 quarter were being acquiring immunotherapy. Some sufferers received far more than one therapy modality, the authors stage out.

Blood was collected a few times — at the close of March, the commencing of Could, and the commencing of June only serology was carried out, not PCR, investigators observed. 

Ben-Aharon emphasized that, as Israel was in full lockdown during the examine interval, these sufferers with cancer and the health care staff traveled only involving their homes and the therapy heart as there was nowhere else to go.  

The examine final results show that patients have been in truth uncovered to much less individuals throughout the examine interval, which suggested that they ended up self-isolating (P < .01). The hospital made universal facial masking as well as body temperature checking mandatory from mid-April onwards.

No Symptomatic Cases

“During the study interval, there was no documented symptomatic case of COVID-19 among the recruited participants, nor in the general patient population of the cancer center or in the healthcare workers cohort,” the investigators note.

Results on serological testing identified a positive titer of anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG (IgG+) in 4 (2.4%) of the 164 patients with cancer and in 2 (1.9%) of the 107 healthcare workers.

In contrast, anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgM and IgA were undetectable in all serum samples at all three times tested.

“Out of the six participants with positive results, only one had COVID19-related co-morbidities,” they add.

CyTOF (cytometry by time of flight) analysis, which delineates individual cells in the immune system, showed differences between the two groups. 

Compared with healthcare workers who were SARS-CoV-2 IgG–, there was an approximately 90% reduction in myeloid cells in the two healthcare workers who were SARS-CoV-2 IgG+.

In contrast, compared with patients with cancer who were SARS-CoV-2 IgG–, there was a smaller, approximately 50% reduction in myeloid cells in the 4 patients with cancer who were SARS-COV-2 IgG+, the study authors report.

“We had a very small sample size,” Ben-Aharon acknowledged. “But even with this minimal sample size, we saw a different pattern in the immune profile [between the two groups] and when we looked at how COVID-19 affected healthcare workers, we could see that the pattern was completely different, especially in the myeloid cells, compared with cancer patients,” she added.

Changes in the percentages of immune cells between healthcare workers and cancer patients who were SARS-CoV-2 IgG– were also “substantial” when it came to natural killer cells, B cells and dendritic cells, “further suggesting that the immune cell composition may alter the sensitivity of cancer patients to the virus when compared to healthcare workers,” researchers suggest.

No Symptomatic Cases

Quite remarkably, no clinically symptomatic cases of COVID-19 were documented among the 8500 patients who visited the Rambam oncology center between December 2019 and May 2020.

Furthermore, not one of the 228 healthcare workers at the cancer center developed symptomatic COVID-19 infection during the same time interval.

“Cancer centers still need to take all the same precautions like wearing a mask and practice social distancing, but they should be following their routine treatment schedules because COVID-19 infection in cancer patients does not appear to be catastrophic,” Ben-Aharon emphasized. 

“A cancer patient’s risk is not from COVID but from their cancer and physicians should be treating it,” she said.

Theory is “Biologically Plausible”

Asked to comment on the study, Alvin Lee, MBBS, PhD, clinical lecturer, University College London, United Kingdom, felt that the numbers in the study were still too small to draw any definite conclusions from the data thus far.

“Researchers did detect antibodies [to the SARS-CO-V-2 virus] in the blood but we don’t know how many days post-infection people were, so it’s still quite early in the story,” he emphasized.

However, Lee also felt that it is “certainly biologically plausible” that cancer treatment could affect a patient’s immune profile.

As a member of the project management group for the UK Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project, Lee and colleagues recently reported the results of an analysis of 800 patients with cancer and symptomatic COVID-19 treated between March 18 and April 26 in a network of cancer centers.

About half (52%) of these patients had a mild infectious disease course.

Some 28% of the group died, but the risk of death was significantly associated with advanced patient age (odds ratio [OR], 9.42) being male (OR, 1.67), and the presence of other comorbidities such as hypertension (OR, 1.95) and cardiovascular disease (OR, 2.32).

Moreover, after adjusting for age, gender and comorbidities, “chemotherapy in the past 4 weeks had no significant effect on mortality from COVID-19 disease when compared with patients with cancer who had not received recent chemotherapy,” Lee and colleagues reported.

Lee told Medscape Medical News that this particular cohort of cancer patients likely had a better prognosis than many others, as they were expected to benefit the most from anti-cancer treatment.

“So I think this may be why we did not see increased risk of mortality apart from [other now well established] risk factors for COVID-19 death,” he said.

“But it is certainly plausible that cancer treatment could affect the immune profile of cancer patients, which would then affect outcomes for those infected with COVID-19,” he said.

Ben-Aharon, the study coauthors, and Lee have disclosed no relevant financial relationships.

Cancers. Published online August 2 3 , 2020. Full text

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