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Hospitalized individuals with active cancer more likely to die from COVID-19

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New research indicates that patients hospitalized with active cancer were more likely to die from COVID-19 than those with a history of cancer or those without any cancer diagnosis. The findings published by Wiley early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, also indicate those with active blood cancers have the greatest risk of death due to COVID-19. Researchers found no increased mortality risk in patients who received cancer treatments in the three months (or longer) prior to hospitalization.

To investigate how cancer, or the various therapies used to treat it, can affect the health of patients who develop COVID-19, a team analyzed the NYU Langone Medical Center’s records of 4,184 hospitalized patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This group included 233 patients with a current, or “active,” cancer diagnosis. More patients with an active cancer diagnosis (34.3 percent) were likely to die from COVID-19 than those with a history of cancer (27.6 percent) and those without any cancer history (20.0 percent).

Among patients with active cancer, those with blood-related cancers were at the highest risk of death. Receiving systemic anticancer therapy, including chemotherapy, molecularly targeted therapies, and immunotherapy, within three months prior to hospitalization was not linked to a higher risk of death, and the investigators found no differences based on the types of cancer therapy received.

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“We completed a large chart review-based study of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and found that patients with active cancer, but not a history of cancer, were more likely to die. Notably, however, among those hospitalized with active cancer and COVID-19, recent cancer therapy was not associated with worse outcomes,” said senior author Daniel Becker, MD. “People with active cancer should take precautions against getting COVID-19, including vaccination, but need not avoid therapy for cancer.”

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CANCER‘s incoming Editor-in-Chief Suresh S. Ramalingam, MD, deputy director of Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University and assistant dean for cancer research at Emory University School of Medicine, noted that the findings highlight the importance of COVID-19 vaccination for individuals with cancer.

Additional Information


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Full Citation:

“COVID-19 outcomes in hospitalized active cancer patients: Experiences from a major New York City healthcare system.” Chen Fu, James H. Stoeckle, Lena Masri, Abhishek Pandey, Meng Cao, Dalia Littman, Marissa Rybstein, Sunil E. Saith, Kinan Yarta, Abhinav Rohatgi, Danil Makarov, Scott E. Sherman, Christy Morrissey, Alexander C. Jordan, Beatrice Razzo, Poy Theprungsirikul, Joseph Tsai, and Daniel J. Becker. CANCER; Published Online: June 7, 2021 (DOI: 10.1002/cncr.33657).

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URL Upon Publication: http://doi.wiley.com/10.1002/cncr.33657

Author Contact: Jeffrey Molter, of the media relations team at NYU Langone’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, at [email protected].

About the Journal

CANCER is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Cancer Society integrating scientific information from worldwide sources for all oncologic specialties. The objective of CANCER is to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the exchange of information among oncologic disciplines concerned with the etiology, course, and treatment of human cancer. CANCER is published on behalf of the American Cancer Society by Wiley and can be accessed online.

Follow us on Twitter @JournalCancer

About Wiley

Wiley drives the world forward with research and education. Through publishing, platforms and services, we help students, researchers, universities, and corporations to achieve their goals in an ever-changing world. For more than 200 years, we have delivered consistent performance to all of our stakeholders. The Company’s website can be accessed at http://www.wiley.com.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.


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