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].
Melanoma patients are set to benefit from subsidised access to immunotherapy treatment for high risk early-stage and advanced-stage melanoma patients.
An informative article on how immunotherapy is revolutionising cancer treatment, written by Jill Margo and featured in the Australian Financial Review.
Melanoma patients and their families in the Riverina will benefit from strengthened and sustained melanoma services with the merger of the Amie St Clair Melanoma Trust and Melanoma Institute Australia.
Belmont High School at Lake Macquarie has been announced winner of the 2019 SunSafe Student Ambassador Program video competition.
It’s time again to say thank you to our amazing community fundraisers!
Videos of the sessions at the recent Patient Information Evening co-hosted by Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) and Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) are now available for viewing.
MIA is well-represented in the poster sessions at the Society for Melanoma Research 2019 Congress in the USA, with four poster presentations being given by members of our translational research lab.
Professor Georgina Long has today opened the Society for Melanoma Research 2019 Congress in Salt Lake City, Utah.
MIA’s Co-Medical Directors, Professor Georgina Long and Professor Richard Scolyer, have both been named Highly Cited Researchers, according to the Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers 2019 list.
Melanoma Patients Australia (MPA) and Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) have announced a new multi-year agreement to provide enhanced support services for melanoma patients nationally.
It is time again to say thank you to our incredible community fundraisers who are helping us get closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.
MIA has presented promising data regarding progression-free survival rates for advanced melanoma patients at the ESMO 2019 Congress in Barcelona.
Another month has flown by and yet again we have a host of amazing community fundraisers who generously gave up their time to help us reach our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.
Comments in favour of giving patients with BRAF-positive melanoma access to first-line immunotherapy need to be submitted online prior to October 9, 2019.
Jay's Longest Melanoma March documentary is screening this Sunday 22 September at 1pm (AEST) on Channel 10, capturing behind the scenes of the 2000km walk, Adelaide to Sydney in 50 days. Uniting to end melanoma.
It’s been a month since we highlighted some of our incredibly generous community fundraisers. We thought we’d have a look back at August and put the spotlight on more of the wonderful people who give up their time to fundraise for MIA, so we can continue to edge closer to our goal of zero deaths from melanoma.
They are a formidable team - in work and in play
This week, Melanoma Institute Australia hosted the first of six