Cancer Increases Risk of Mortality in Patients with COVID-19

With so many unknowns still surrounding COVID-19, researchers are trying to determine not only what the best treatments are for the disease, but what may put patients at a greater risk of catching it as well as what may increase the mortality risk of those who do become infected. Cancer patients who contract COVID-19 may have a greater mortality risk compared to patients who do not have cancer, according to a study.

“This is the largest and only multivariate study evaluating the difference in mortality from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID‐19) between patients with cancer and patients without cancer in the United States. The objective was to assess COVID‐19 mortality rates in patients with cancer versus patients without cancer and uncover possible statistically significant characteristics contributing to mortality,” the study authors stated.

They retrospectively reviewed patients with and without cancer aged older than 18 years who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1 and April 30 throughout the Ochsner Health System in Louisiana. A total of 312 patients with cancer and 4,833 patients without cancer were identified.

The cancer group had a higher rate of mortality; patients with cancer and older age had a significantly greater mortality risk (odds ratio [OR]=5.96; P<0.001); additional mortality risk factors included male sex (OR=2.15), chronic kidney disease history (OR=3.84), and obesity (OR=1.30). Among hospitalized cancer patients, factors associated with increased mortality risk were adverse vital signs on admission, decreased absolute lymphocyte counts, thrombocytopenia, elevated creatinine, lactic acidosis, and elevated procalcitonin. Also in the cancer group, factors associated with increased mortality were active or progressive disease (P<0.001) and recent therapy (OR=2.34; 95% confidence interval, 1.08-5.08).

“Patients with cancer have increased mortality in the setting of infection with SARS‐CoV‐2 in comparison with patients without cancer. Patients with cancer who are 65 years of age or older and those with certain comorbidities have the greatest risk of death. Recent cancer‐directed therapy and disease status also seem to play roles in mortality,” the researchers concluded.

The study was published in Cancer.

Kaitlyn D’Onofrio is a digital medical writer. She is interested in musculoskeletal health, the effect of exercise on health, and mental health awareness. When she’s not writing for DocWire, Kaitlyn is teaching yoga classes in her community, promoting wellness to her students.