Cancer Patients with COVID-19 Produce Antibodies at Comparable Rate to Non-Cancer Patients

Cancer patients infected with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) produce antibodies at a similar rate to non-cancer patients, according to a study newly published in Nature Cancer.

“We conducted the study out of our concern that cancer patients who develop COVID-19 may not benefit from the same degree of antibody protection as people without cancer, given that many are immuno-compromised,” said Astha Thakkar, M.B.B.S., a Montefiore hematologic oncology fellow and first author of the paper via a press release. “Our findings provide assurance that most people with cancer are able to mount an antibody response to the coronavirus that is similar to the general population. People with a history of cancer are likely as protected from reinfection as those without a history of disease and are likely to respond well to vaccines, according to our study.”

In this retrospective study, researchers assessed 261 cancer patients, 77% of whom were diagnosed with solid malignancies and 23% with hematologic (blood) malignancies. The results showed that 92% of patients produced antibodies following infection.

 

“The treatments commonly given to patients with blood cancers–anti-CD20 antibody therapy, stem-cell transplants, and steroids–are known to suppress the immune system, which may explain the lower rate of antibodies developed in these patients and their increased risk for severe COVID-19 disease,” said senior author Balazs Halmos, M.D., M.S., director of the Multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program at Montefiore, professor of medicine at Einstein, and a member of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center (AECC).

“We need to pay special attention to patients with blood cancers and think through proactive strategies to ensure this patient population is appropriately cared for,” said Sanjay Goel, M.B.B.S., a medical oncologist at Montefiore, professor of medicine at Einstein, a member of AECC, and a coauthor on the paper. “This study also raises the need for additional research on COVID-19 vaccines and current treatments for people with blood cancer.”