The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has called for people with cancer to be considered for priority access to Covid-19 vaccines. The call comes after a review of data on the topic found that people with cancer were twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as people without cancer.
Over the course of the pandemic, several research studies have investigated whether people with cancer have worse outcomes when contracting Covid-19.
Based on a review of 28 of these studies, the AACR Covid-19 Cancer Task Force found that people with cancer were twice as likely to die from Covid-19 as people without cancer, even when factors such as age, sex, and comorbidities were taken into account.
“It is consistently clear that a cancer diagnosis doubles the overall risk of death from Covid-19 compared to patients with Covid-19 and no cancer,” said Antoni Ribas, President, and chair of the AACR COVID-19 and Cancer Task Force. “ In addition, the cancer treatments that these patients are receiving are lifesaving, and any interference due to Covid-19 exposure, or withholding treatment due to virus risk, can itself worsen outcomes and increase cancer mortality,” Ribas added.
There are many different types of cancer and countless ways in which cancers are treated, so it is likely that the increased risk of dying from Covid-19 will vary widely within this very heterogeneous group of patients. With 1.8 million Americans diagnosed with cancer per year, it may be that while the supply of Covid-19 vaccines is still limited, prioritization may have to be given to people with cancer at particular risk of dying from Covid-19. What is known about this so far?
“Patients with blood cancers are at a particularly higher risk. This is because cancer alters blood cells that are important to fight Covid-19, and their treatments further cripple the normal blood cells that are needed to generate immune responses to Covid-19.
Another subgroup at particular risk are patients with lung cancer, cancer that frequently develops in people who have chronic lung disease.
Therefore, these patients have two very strong risk factors for poor outcomes with Covid-19,” said Ribas, noting that patients with cancer should consult with their health care providers about potential vaccination.