A new study in the US has assessed the mortality rate among cancer patients infected with COVID-19. Described as the largest study that makes this kind of assessment so far, it found people with cancer are much more likely to die from COVID-19 than those without cancer. Conducted by physician-researchers at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine, the study was published in the online edition of Cancer Discovery.
The study involved 218 cancer patients who tested positive for COVID-19 from March 18 to April 8 at Montefiore Medical Center, New York. Of them, 61 died from COVID-19, a fatality rate of 28%, as compared to the overall mortality rate of 5.8% for COVID-19 in the United States (as per the World Health Organization).
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These patients were treated at a time when testing was mostly done in symptomatic patients who required hospitalisation. This, the researchers said, may partially explain the high fatality rate within the study’s cancer population. However, even when compared to mortality rates in non-cancer patients across New York City during the same time period, cancer patients demonstrated a significantly higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
As a group, COVID-19 patients with blood cancers, such as leukaemia and lymphoma, had the highest mortality rate: 37% (20 of 54 patients). For patients with solid malignancies, the mortality rate was 25% (41 of 164). Striking differences were observed among specific solid cancers: the mortality rate for patients with lung cancer was 55% and colorectal cancer was 38%, compared with mortality rates of 14% for breast cancer and 20% for prostate cancer.
“Our findings emphasise the need to prevent cancer patients from contracting COVID-19 and — if they do — to identify and closely monitor these individuals for dangerous symptoms,” said Vikas Mehta, a co-lead author of the study, a surgical oncologist at Montefiore, and associate professor of otorhinolaryngology—head and neck surgery at Einstein. “We hope that our findings can inform states and communities that have not yet been so severely struck by this pandemic about the unique vulnerability cancer patients face.”
Source: Albert Einstein College of Medicine