Skip to main content

25-03-2020 | Oncology | News | Article

Cancer linked to increased COVID-19 risk

Author: Shreeya Nanda

medwireNews: The risk for acquiring severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2) infection appears to be more than twofold higher for people with cancer than the general community, indicates a chart review.

Conghua Xie, from Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University in China, and co-researchers report on the incidence and outcomes of COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV2, among 1524 patients with cancer admitted to Zhongnan Hospital between 30 December 2019 and 17 February 2020.

COVID-19 was diagnosed in 12 patients, primarily on the basis of a positive computed tomography result in 10 patients, with just four testing positive on the SARS-CoV2 real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction assay.

This equated to an incidence rate of 0.79%, which was higher than the 0.37% cumulative incidence of COVID-19 in Wuhan at data cutoff, giving an odds ratio for SARS-CoV2 infection of 2.31 for people with cancer versus the community.

The median age of the cancer patients with COVID-19 was 66 years, but the majority (66.7%) were older than 60 years. Seven of the 12 patients had a diagnosis of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and five were receiving chemotherapy, with or without immunotherapy, or radiotherapy.

Outcome data as of 10 March 2020 show that six patients had been discharged, three remained as inpatients, and three had died. Of note, all three deaths occurred in patients who developed severe COVID-19, one of whom needed intensive-level care.

Xie et al also assessed the incidence of COVID-19 by age among the 228 NSCLC patients in the cohort, finding a higher rate in those who were older than 60 years than in younger patients, at 4.3% versus 1.8%.

The researchers point out that these results contrast with those of a population study of 1099 COVID-19 patients that did not find an association between age and susceptibility to infection.

“A larger sample size in patients with cancer will resolve these potential associations,” they write in a research letter published in JAMA Oncology.

Noting prior results indicating that hospital-acquired transmission accounted for around 40% of hospitalized SARS-CoV2 cases, Xie and colleagues “propose that aggressive measures be undertaken to reduce frequency of hospital visits of patients with cancer during a viral epidemic going forward.”

They continue: “For patients who require treatment, proper isolation protocols must be in place to mitigate the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare. © 2020 Springer Healthcare part of the Springer Nature group

25 March 2020: The coronavirus pandemic is affecting all healthcare professionals across the globe. Medicine Matters’ focus, in this difficult time, is the dissemination of the latest data to support you in your research and clinical practice, based on the scientific literature. We will update the information we provide on the site, as the data are published. However, please refer to your own professional and governmental guidelines for the latest guidance in your own country.

JAMA Oncol 2020; doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.0980

Related topics