Combination Of Cancer Treatments & COVID Could Lead To Death, UC Research Finds

Sep 19, 2020

A University of Cincinnati researcher finds cancer patients undergoing a combination of chemotherapy and immunotherapy one to three months before a COVID-19 diagnosis have a greater risk of death than patients who haven't undergone cancer treatment in the past year.

The findings of Dr. Trisha Wise-Draper, UC associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology, were presented Saturday at the European Society for Medical Oncology Virtual Congress 2020.

Wise-Draper and other scientists analyzed 3,600 patients from 122 institutions across the country.

"Death was especially high in those receiving anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies, which are normally used to deplete abnormal B cells common for certain lymphomas, one to three months prior to COVID-19 infection - a time period for which significant B-cell depletion develops," says Wise-Draper.

She explains that except for endocrine therapy, death was higher for those undergoing active cancer treatment when compared to people who haven't had any cancer treatment in a year.

Wise-Draper says, "Any way you slice it, this is not good news for patients who are fighting cancer. Targeted therapies, especially those causing immune cell depletion, used one to three months before (the diagnosis of COVID-19) are associated with very high mortality, up to 50%."

She says earlier they thought immunotherapy and chemotherapy was safe for use in patients with cancer and COVID-19 but it may lead to worse outcomes.