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94% cancer patients respond well to Covid-19 vaccines, study flags questions over rest

Among the 131 patients studied, 94% developed antibodies to the coronavirus. Seven high-risk patients did not.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: July 3, 2021 8:39:00 am
A healthcare worker fills a syringe with the vaccine for Covid-19 at a vaccination drive in Ahmedabad. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

In a US and Swiss study, nearly all patients with cancer developed good immune response to the Covid-19 mRNA vaccines three to four weeks after receiving their second dose. But the fact that a small group of the patients exhibited no response, the researchers said, raised questions about how their protection against the virus will be addressed moving forward.

The study has been published in the journal Cancer Cell.

Among the 131 patients studied, 94% developed antibodies to the coronavirus. Seven high-risk patients did not.

“We could not find any antibodies against the virus in those patients. That has implications for the future. Should we provide a third dose of vaccine after cancer therapy has completed in certain high-risk patients?” the University of Texas quotes corresponding author Dr Dimpy P Shah as saying.

“With other vaccines and infections, patients with cancer have been shown not to develop as robust an immune response as the general population,” study senior co-author Ruben Mesa is quoted as saying. “It made sense, therefore, to hypothesise that certain high-risk groups of patients do not have antibody response to COVID-19 vaccine.”

“Patients with hematological malignancies, such as myeloma and Hodgkin lymphoma, were less likely to respond to vaccination than those with solid tumors,” co-lead author Pankil K Shah is quoted as saying.

Among the high-risk groups, patients receiving a therapy called Rituximab within six months of vaccination developed no antibodies. Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody used in the treatment of haematological cancers and autoimmune diseases.

Patients on chemotherapy that is toxic to cells developed antibody response, but it was muted compared to the general population. “How that relates to protection against Covid-19, we don’t know yet,” Dr Dimpy Shah said.

The Delta variant and other mutants of the coronavirus were not examined in the study. The team did not analyse the response of T cells and B cells in the patients.

In countries where there is lack of vaccination, there is talk that one dose might confer adequate protection, but this may not be true in the case of patients with cancer, Dr Dimpy Shah said.

Source: University of Texas

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