Cincinnati: Researchers in a recent study provided more information on the connection between COVID-19 severity and immunotherapy for cancer patients.
The research was led by a University of Cincinnati researcher and Trisha Wise-Draper, MD, Ph.D., of the University of Cincinnati, is a co-corresponding author of the study. The findings of the study were published in JAMA Oncology. Prior to this study, there have been conflicting findings on how immunotherapy for cancer treatment affects COVID-19 outcomes, according to Wise-Draper. It was believed that immunotherapy would predispose cancer patients to worse COVID-19 disease since immunotherapy treatments impair and immunosuppress patients' immune systems.
"This research was focused on understanding the effects of immunotherapy and immunosuppression on cancer patients with COVID-19 and COVID-19 outcomes," said Wise-Draper, associate professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology, section head for Medical Oncology in UC's College of Medicine, Head and Neck Center of Excellence co-leader and a UC Health physician.
The COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium registry, a multi-institution registry of individuals with COVID-19 and a current or past invasive cancer diagnosis, provided the researchers with data on 12,046 patients. The COVID-19 and cancer patient cohort with the most data available at this time was this one.
"We reviewed patients with cancer, those that had baseline immunosuppression, and those that were treated with immunotherapy prior to getting COVID-19," Wise-Draper said.
In addition to death rates, Wise-Draper stated that the research team evaluated the severity of COVID-19 disease using metrics such as whether patients needed oxygen, were admitted to the hospital, or required intensive care unit therapy.
"The most important finding is that although those treated with immunotherapy alone did not have an effect on COVID-19 disease outcomes, those that had baseline immunosuppression and were treated with immunotherapy had worse outcomes with COVID-19," Wise-Draper said.
Patients who had non-immunotherapy therapies, such as chemotherapy, had COVID-19 outcomes that were poorer than those who received immunotherapy, albeit to a smaller extent. These patients had baseline immunosuppression. It was discovered that those who had received COVID-19 immunizations had less severe COVID-19.
According to the findings, immunotherapy treatments are often safe for patients who do not already have immunosuppression to use, even when the pandemic is at its worst. According to the study's authors, more research may yield more information by comparing patient outcomes based on various immunotherapy regimens.