Patients with cancer are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19.

Patients with cancer are at increased risk of developing severe COVID-19.

  • May 20, 2021

Spanish researchers belonging to the Spanish Lung Cancer Group (GECP) have confirmed that cancer patients have a higher risk of suffering from COVID-19 in a serious way than the general population. Thus, this research group has analyzed in its GRAVID study a total of 447 cases of lung cancer patients diagnosed with coronavirus during the first wave in Spain in 65 hospital centers throughout Spain. It is one of the studies with the largest number of cases included worldwide. The study has been published by the Lung Cancer Magazine.

“The results of this study are important because they confirm what we suspected, that cancer patients, especially lung cancer, are more vulnerable to this pathology. Furthermore, it is one of the world studies that has analyzed the largest number of patients ”, explains Mariano Provencio, president of the GECP.

Results of the GRAVID study

According to this study, cancer patients are at higher risk of developing COVID-19 disease more seriously. Also, patients with  advanced disease, weakened immune systems, and high LDH  were at higher risk of death.

Of the total of patients analyzed, 78% were hospitalized, 2% were admitted to the ICU, and 33% died. Mortality was higher in patients who received corticosteroids to treat the virus at the time of hospitalization . The severity of COVID-19 was correlated with higher mortality, ICU admissions, and mechanical ventilation rates.

Most of the patients included in this registry were  men  (74.3%) and  smokers or ex-smokers  (85.7%). Non-small cell lung cancer was the most frequent type of cancer (84.5%), mainly as adenocarcinoma (51.0%) and metastatic and inoperable disease (79.2%).

On the other hand, it should be noted that almost 60% of the patients were receiving cancer treatment, mainly chemotherapy or first-line immunotherapy. “In this sense, it is important to emphasize that  cancer therapy was not associated with an increased risk of hospitalization or death . This would mean that the administration of chemotherapy or immunotherapy in a pandemic context should not be overlooked ”, Provencio points out.

Protection of Lung Cancer Patients

With the data from this study, the GECP urges  special protection of lung cancer patients against COVID-19 . “Without ceasing to administer the treatment, the risk of exposure of these patients to the virus must be minimized, adapting the health or therapeutic protocols in each case,” Provencio details.

In light of the data from this study, the GECP also highlights that, without other risk factors,  the administration of chemo and immunotherapy should not be avoided since it is not associated with a worsening of the pathology . They also insist that lung cancer patients should have the same access to the ICU as the general population since expectations are similar. Lastly, the aforementioned risk factors (advanced disease and high LDH levels) should guide specialists to faster supportive treatment and probably early access to the ICU. 

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