medwireNews: The risk for contracting COVID-19 appears to be higher among cancer patients and survivors than the general population, according to a pooled meta-analysis.
Reporting their findings in a letter to JCO Global Oncology, lead author Aakash Desai (University of Connecticut, Farmington, USA) and collaborators explain that research has pointed to an increased risk for acquiring COVID-19 and a more severe clinical course among people with a current diagnosis or history of cancer.
But the reports have been limited by small patient numbers, so the team set out to conduct a pooled analysis, which included 11 clinical studies from China published up to 14 March 2020 that each consisted of at least 10 patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19, giving a total of 3661 patients.
The overall pooled prevalence of cancer in these patients was 2.0%, with subgroup analysis by sample size showing a prevalence of 3.0% in the five studies with 100 or fewer participants and of 2.0% in the six studies with more than 100 participants.
By contrast, a recent study reported that the overall cancer incidence in the Chinese population was 0.29%, say the study authors, adding that “taken together with previously published results, we found that patients with cancer and cancer survivors remain an important at-risk population for COVID-19.”
They caution, however, that the findings “are potentially limited by the retrospective nature of the studies used,” and on the whole “current evidence on the association between cancer and COVID-19 remains inconclusive.”
Nonetheless, Desai et al believe that “we must give more intensive attention to patients with cancer, especially those undergoing bone marrow or stem cell transplantation, those with hematologic malignancies, and those receiving active treatment, given the higher risk.”
They continue: “In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many major cancer centers have implemented policies such as screening all patients, staff, and providers for COVID-19 symptoms and travel history, minimizing follow-up visits and admissions, training staff in using personal protective equipment, engaging in telehealth and WebEx meetings, providing COVID-19 hotline and response teams, and placing restrictions on employee business travel.”
But the team stresses that many unanswered questions remain, such as whether treatment should be delayed for patients with stable disease and stronger personal protection advised, and what the impact of potential delays in clinical trials will be.
medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare. © 2020 Springer Healthcare part of the Springer Nature Group
22 April 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.