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First Insights into the Impact of COVID-19 on Patients with Cancer
In the frightening early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unknown whether patients with cancer were at higher risk of severe outcomes from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Two studies published in 2020 from sites of the earliest outbreaks in China and the United States – Wuhan and New York City – represented the first large cohort studies addressing whether patients with cancer and COVID-19 had worse outcomes than age-matched noncancer patients with COVID-19. Dai, Liu, Liu, Santillana, Cai, and colleagues enrolled 105 patients with cancer from 14 hospitals in Wuhan, China. Compared with age-matched noncancer patients, patients with cancer had higher rates of death, ICU admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and severe or critical symptoms. Patients with hematologic cancer, lung cancer, or stage IV metastatic cancer were at greatest risk. Mehta, Goel, Kabarriti, Halmos, Verma, and colleagues analyzed 218 patients with COVID-19 and cancer treated in the Montefiore Health System in New York City and observed a significantly increased case fatality rate among patients with cancer compared with noncancer patients treated in the same health system and with all cases in New York City as of April 2020. Patients with lung or hematologic cancers were also observed to have the worst outcomes. These early studies showing increased vulnerability of patients with cancer to COVID-19 highlighted the urgent need to reduce the likelihood of SARS-CoV-2 infection and increase COVID-19 testing in this population and helped guide subsequent policy recommendations, including for prioritization of COVID-19 vaccination for patients with cancer while the vaccine supply was limited.
Read June 2020 article by Dai and colleagues