In a nutshell
This study evaluated the impact of immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) on COVID-19 outcomes in patients with cancer. The data showed that the use of ICI treatment before COVID-19 infection does not affect the disease severity or survival outcomes. This study supports the continued use of ICIs in cancer patients during the pandemic.
Immunotherapy uses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) are a type of immunotherapy used to treat a wide variety of cancers. Tumor cells try to avoid death by switching off our immune system. ICIs work by blocking the off switch of the immune system.
Pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and nivolumab (Opdivo) are examples of ICIs that work by inhibiting (blocking) PD-1, an important protein in the immune system. This inhibition triggers the immune system to attack tumor cells and kill them.
COVID-19 is caused by infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Patients with cancers are among the more severy affected by this infection due to a lower immune system, either due to the disease or its treatments. Whether ICI treatment leads to different COVID-19 outcomes in patients with cancer is still unknown.
Methods & findings
This study involved 684 patients with cancer who were diagnosed with COVID-19. Patients were divided into 2 groups. Group 1 included 228 patients who were treated with ICIs. Group 2 included 456 patients who were not treated with ICIs.
The overall survival was similar between the 2 groups. There were no significant differences in the 30-day mortality rates (12.7% in group 1 and 14.9% in group 2) and the overall mortality rates (22.4% in group 1 and 22.4% in group 2).
There were no significant differences in the number of patients who had at least one hospitalization (38.6% in group 1 and 39% in group 2) and the number of patients who had at least one emergency department visit (16.7% in group 1 and 14.7% in group 2).
The bottom line
This study concluded that the use of ICIs for cancer treatment before COVID-19 infection does not affect the disease severity or survival outcomes. This supports the continued use of ICIs in cancer patients during the pandemic.
The fine print
This study looked back in time at medical records. The patients were not randomly assigned to the two groups. The patients included in the study resided in the Northeast and Midwest of the USA and had a higher representation of Whites than the US COVID-19-positive population.
Published By :
Mar 11, 2022
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