Are cancer patients on immunotherapy at a greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection?

Are cancer patients on immunotherapy at a greater risk of severe COVID-19 infection?

4 February 2021

New research, led by Melanoma Institute Australia, has revealed that cancer patients treated with immunotherapy are not at a higher risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection compared to other cancer patients.

With more than 100 million* global cases of COVID-19 infection and the pandemic ongoing, this important finding will have implications for clinical decision-making in patients being treated with immunotherapy for cancer, including melanoma.

‘Previous studies have found that cancer patients infected with COVID-19 are more likely to develop a severe form of the illness and succumb to the disease compared to those without cancer,’ said first study author Dr Aljosja Rogiers, MIA’s Cameron Medical Oncology Fellow. ‘However, it was not known if patients with cancer on immunotherapy would have an increased or decreased risk of severe COVID-19, and this warranted investigation.’

Immunotherapy works by releasing the brakes on the immune system so that it can effectively target and destroy cancer cells. Knowing that immune cells can help fight viruses too meant that it was theoretically possible that immunotherapy may be helpful in reducing the severity of COVID-19 in patients with cancer.

However, immune cells release cytokines which increases inflammation: this has the potential to make the course of a COVID-19 infection worse. This clinical conundrum needed to be investigated to help guide treatment choices for clinicians during the pandemic.

Together with their international collaborators, the researchers found that treatment with immunotherapy does not further increase the risk of developing severe COVID-19 infection in patients with cancer. Their findings were recently published in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer.

Publication: Rogiers A, Pires da Silva I, Tentori C, Tondini CA, Grimes JM, Trager MH, Nahm S, Zubiri L, Manos M, Bowling P, Elkrief A, Papneja N, Vitale MG, Rose AAN, Borgers JSW, Roy S, Mangana J, Pimentel Muniz T, Cooksley T, Lupu J, Vaisman A, Saibil SD, Butler MO, Menzies AM, Carlino MS, Erdmann M, Berking C, Zimmer L, Schadendorf D, Pala L, Queirolo P, Posch C, Hauschild A, Dummer R, Haanen J, Blank CU, Robert C, Sullivan RJ, Ascierto PA, Miller WH Jr, Stephen Hodi F, Suijkerbuijk KPM, Reynolds KL, Rahma OE, Lorigan PC, Carvajal RD, Lo S, Mandala M, Long GV. Clinical impact of COVID-19 on patients with cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibition.  J Immunother Cancer. 2021 Jan;9(1):e001931.

 

*Update data from Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. COVID-19 Map. Available: https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html [Accessed 3 Feb 2021].

A Day in the Life of... Michelle Peranec
30 Sep 2016

A Day in the Life of... Michelle Peranec

Meet Michelle, our Translational Research Officer whose role is to connect the clinics to the lab by ensuring patient blood and tissue samples are documented and carefully stored in our BioSpecimen Bank.

Wildfire Award helps ignite new melanoma research
08 Sep 2016

Wildfire Award helps ignite new melanoma research

Dr James Wilmott says his Wildfire Award will help expand research into treatment options for people with mucosal melanoma, a rare but deadly form of skin cancer.

Opinion: Fighting the Resistance
25 Aug 2016

Opinion: Fighting the Resistance

Following the recent hype around immunotherapies in cancer, CEO Carole Renouf shares the greatest story never told… resistance… and what MIA is doing to address it.

5 Minutes With A/Prof Jennifer Wargo
11 Aug 2016

5 Minutes With A/Prof Jennifer Wargo

A/Prof Wargo discusses the research she will be presenting as a keynote speaker at the upcoming Australasian Melanoma Conference.

Dr James Wilmott awarded for outstanding cancer research
06 Aug 2016

Dr James Wilmott awarded for outstanding cancer research

Dr James Wilmott has been awarded the Wildfire award at this year's Cancer Institute NSW's Premier Awards for Outstanding Cancer Research.

Community invests in MIA's new trial
19 Jul 2016

Community invests in MIA's new trial

The community has responded generously to our recent appeal to fund a specialised nursing position in an exciting new clinical trial. 

New trial giving options
18 Jul 2016

New trial giving options

We have developed a unique clinical trial that will use existing drugs to target rare genes in melanoma patients.

Melanoma research summary from ASCO
07 Jul 2016

Melanoma research summary from ASCO

Data presented at the recent ASCO Annual Meeting showcased advances in melanoma research, particularly long-term survival data.

Our Privacy Policy has been updated
06 Jul 2016

Updated privacy policy

We value your privacy and want you to be familiar with how we collect, use and disclose your information.

Can cognitive technology assist with melanoma identification?
29 Jun 2016

Can cognitive technology assist with melanoma identification?

Melanoma Institute Australia has partnered with IBM Research in Australia to help further advance melanoma identification using cognitive technology.

'4 Questions With...' Series
24 Jun 2016

'4 Questions With...' Series

CEO Carole Renouf chats to senior clinicians and researchers as part of our "4 Questions With..." short video series. 

Stop the Spread campaign shortlisted
22 Jun 2016

Stop the Spread campaign shortlisted

MIA's 'Stop the Spread' campaign has been shortlisted in the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

Merkel Cell Carcinoma: the hidden skin cancer
22 Jun 2016

Merkel Cell Carcinoma: the hidden skin cancer

Merkel cell carcinoma is a rare but aggressive skin cancer that is often hard to diagnose.

A meeting of the minds
02 Jun 2016

A meeting of the minds

MIA's doctors are converging on Chicago this week along with 40,000 delegates from around the globe at the biggest oncology conference in the world.

MIA's Dermatology services expanded
27 May 2016

MIA's Dermatology services expanded

We are pleased to announce a recent expansion to the dermatology services at Melanoma Institute Australia.

5 Minutes with Maria Gonzalez
20 May 2016

5 Minutes with Maria Gonzalez

This International Clinical Trials Day we reflect on the importance of clinical trials and the people who dedicate their lives to helping melanoma patients today and in the future.

Melanoma eBook to educate GPs
12 May 2016

Melanoma eBook to educate GPs

MIA has launched its first eBook Melanoma Essentials – A Concise Guide, a resource for GPs and other medical, nursing and allied professionals to help them effectively diagnose and manage cases.

5 Minutes with Dr Scot Ebbinghaus
05 May 2016

5 Minutes with Dr Scot Ebbinghaus

Dr Scot Ebbinghaus chats to us about an exciting clinical trial at MIA and where melanoma treatment is headed in the future.

Opdivo available on PBS for advanced melanoma patients
01 May 2016

Opdivo available on PBS for advanced melanoma patients

A new melanoma treatment has been listed on the PBS today, giving another option for advanced melanoma patients. 

5 Minutes with Dr Louise Jackett
27 Apr 2016

5 Minutes with Dr Louise Jackett

MIA's Pathology Fellow Dr Louise Jackett tells us why she's joined our fellowship program to learn from the best.