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Most studies have shown that many cancer patients are at high risk of developing severe forms of COVID-19. In a study of nearly 900 cancer patients with coronavirus in the UK, for instance, the death rate was estimated to be 33.6%, which is much higher than the general population. However, most of these patients were hospitalised.
Recently, a study presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) virtual congress 2020 included more than 1100 cancer patients receiving treatment in outpatient clinics in Germany. The study found that the vast majority of cancer patients who tested positive for coronavirus did not show any symptoms. In addition, cancer patients who did not show any symptoms (were asymptomatic) did not have worse outcomes than those without coronavirus after further treatment, such as chemotherapy. The findings differ from the belief that cancer patients in general tend to develop more severe forms of COVID-19.
“This particular piece of research . . . is very relevant to complete the picture in terms of how severe COVID is” in cancer patients, said Dr David Pinato from Imperial College London. Such findings “are reshaping the way we think about COVID in cancer.”
In addition, coronavirus in asymptomatic cancer patients appeared to have no impact on the subsequent treatment of the patient. This finding reinforces the importance of continuing routine treatment during the pandemic, as long as patients don’t develop complications. Also, mortality in the coronavirus positive group was not higher than in the group of cancer patients who tested negative for the virus.
Another study in 562 cancer patients in Italy confirm the findings from the German study.
Future studies in more diverse groups of cancer patients are needed to provide a broader picture of the outcomes of COVID-19 in this patient population.