LSU Health N.O. study looks at COVID-19 impact on cancer patients

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An assistant professor with LSU Health New Orleans helps discover what impact COVID-19 may have on cancer patients.

Dr. Suki Subbiah’s findings were published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Dr. Subbiah’s study followed more than 900 patients with cancer who also had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The study also identified severe risk factors for cancer patients with the coronavirus.

Research data was pulled from the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium registry database.

The study found cancer patients with the coronavirus are at an increased risk of dying.

According to the study, “13% of the patients in the study died within 30 days of a diagnosis of COVID-19. Increasing age, male sex, former smoking, the presence of two or more other illnesses, and treatment with azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine were associated with a high risk of death. The authors caution that they “cannot formally ascertain if the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin gives any clinical benefit or overall harm to patients, given the non-randomized nature of the study, and the possibility of other potential clinical imbalances.”

It continues, “People with cancer are at increased risk for COVID-related death because the effects of cancer treatments, supportive medications such as steroids and the immunosuppressive properties of cancer itself can potentially compromise their immune function. As well, patients with cancer are often older and have one or more other major illnesses.”

“Given the worldwide prevalence of cancer and the high transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2, an understanding of the disease course of COVID-19 and factors influencing clinical outcomes in patients with cancer is urgently needed,” said Dr. Subbiah.

 The study authors conclude, “Among patients with cancer and COVID-19, 30-day all-cause mortality was high and associated with general risk factors and risk factors unique to patients with cancer. Longer follow-up is needed to better understand the effect of COVID-19 on outcomes in patients with cancer, including the ability to continue specific cancer treatments.”