Cancer patients with COVID-19 were twice as likely to die in early 2020 than in early 2021

Cancer patients who contracted COVID-19 earlier in the pandemic were far more likely to die from the disease than those who fell ill in early 2021, according to a new study.

An international group of cancer experts called the OnCovid Study Group analyzed health records from 2,600 cancer and Covid patients in six European countries.

Patients had a 15 percent chance of dying from Covid within 14 days of their diagnosis in January through February 2021, compared to a 30 percent chance of dying from Covid in February and March 2020.

This improved survival rate could be due to earlier Covid diagnoses thanks to increased testing as well as better hospital care for patients, the researchers said.

Cancer patients diagnosed with Covid between February and March 2020 died about twice as likely from the disease as patients diagnosed between January and February 2021 (above)

Cancer patients’ risk of Covid fell in the first year of the pandemic thanks to increased testing and improved treatments. Pictured: A nurse examines a Covid patient in an intensive care unit in Jonesboro, Arkansas, August 2021

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cancer patients are very susceptible to severe Covid.

Cancer treatments can weaken patients’ immune systems, making them less able to fight off Covid infection.

Studies have shown that cancer patients infected with the coronavirus have up to a 40 percent chance of dying from the disease.

For this reason, cancer patients have a high priority in vaccination, including booster vaccinations.

Meanwhile, care for Covid patients has improved a lot over the past two years as doctors learn to recognize and treat the disease.

A new study finds these improvements in care had a huge impact on cancer patients who contract Covid.

The study, published Wednesday in JAMA Oncology, was a collaboration between the OnCovid Study Group – an international group of cancer experts made up of scientists from the UK, Italy and Spain.

These researchers used data from the OnCovid Registry, a collection of health records for patients over the age of 18 who had a diagnosis of Covid and had a history of solid or blood-related cancer.

In total, the analysis included around 2,600 patients from six countries: Great Britain, Italy, Spain, France, Belgium and Germany.

Patients were diagnosed with Covid between February 27, 2020 and February 14, 2021 – before vaccines were generally available.

Of the 2,600 patients, the largest number (34 percent) were diagnosed with Covid in February and March 2020, and the next largest number (26 percent) were diagnosed in October and December 2020.

To study cancer patients’ chances of surviving Covid, researchers focused on a metric called the 14-day death rate.

This means the probability that a patient will die within the first 14 days after being diagnosed with Covid.

In February and March 2020, cancer patients diagnosed with Covid had a 29.8 chance of dying within 14 days.

The rate declined through the rest of 2020 and was 20.3 percent from April to June, then 12.5 percent from July to September, and then 17.2 percent from October to December.

In January and February 2021, cancer patients with Covid had a 14.5 chance of dying within two weeks of their diagnosis – twice as low as their risk in early 2020.

The researchers found that this increases the likelihood of survival in different types of cancer and different countries included in the database.

The rate of Covid hospital admissions for cancer patients also fell, from 64.7% of diagnosed cases in early 2020 to 42.7% of cases in early 2021. Pictured: An intensive care nurse treats a Covid patient at Lafayette General Medical Center in Louisiana, September 2021

The hospitalization rate of patients also fell from 64.7 percent in early 2020 to 42.7 percent in early 2021.

In addition, fewer patients required intensive care, oxygen treatment and ventilators in early 2021 than in early 2020.

Cancer patients previously infected during the pandemic were more likely to be older, had at least two comorbidities, and had cancer in more advanced stages.

The average age of the patients fell as the pandemic progressed.

“After adjusting for country, gender, age, comorbidities, tumor stage and status, anti-Covid and anti-cancer therapy and Covid complications, patients were diagnosed with the first outbreak” [early 2020] had an increased risk of death after 14 days and three months compared to those diagnosed in the second outbreak [fall 2020 to early 2021]“Wrote the researchers.

This study confirms that Covid outcomes for cancer patients improved significantly in the first year of the pandemic.

The researchers attribute this improvement to increased Covid testing and better treatment.

At the start of the pandemic, testing was more reserved for hospital patients and others with severe symptoms.

With the increasing availability of testing – across Europe and elsewhere – people could be tested for possible Covid exposure or mild symptoms, leading to earlier identification of cases.

In addition, treatments such as monoclonal antibodies and steroids have been shown to be valuable in reducing patients’ risk of severe Covid symptoms.

This study was limited in that researchers looked back on previous patient records rather than actively comparing patients in a clinical setting.

This study also used data from before vaccines became generally available. Vaccines – and booster vaccinations – further reduce the risk of Covid for cancer patients.

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