This page was last updated on 9/17/2021. Please check back frequently for updates.

What are the current data on care of patients with cancer and COVID-19?  Are patients with cancer more likely to be infected? Do they have more complications?

The CDC is frequently updating its information on COVID-19.  For the most up-to-date general information on the virus and the epidemic, the CDC is the best source of information.

Mortality of patients with cancer and COVID-19

The best available evidence available at this time suggests that patients with cancer are at increased risk of death compared to patients without cancer. Multiple meta-analyses of studies of mortality in patients with cancer and COVID-19 have been reported (Giannakoulis et al, JCO Glob Oncol; Venkatesulu et al, medRxiv; Tian et al, Int J CancerZhou et al, Int J Infect Dis; Singh et al, Diabetes Obes Metab, Cheruiyot et al, Am J Emerg Med; Luo et al, Clin CardiolBiswas et al, IntervirologyYang et al Cancer Biol Med). These meta-analyses had differing inclusion criteria and search windows, but the results were consistent and found statistically significant odds ratios for increased risk of death in COVID-19 patients with cancer versus those without ranging 1.66 to 3.16. The largest review, Luo et al, found an OR of 1.90 (95% CI 1.57-2.30).

Severity and complications in patients with cancer and COVID-19

Multiple meta-analyses have been published (Singh et al, Diabetes Obs MetabTian et al, Int J Cancer; Zhou et al, Int J Infect DisBarek et al, Heliyon) that have analyzed the risk of severe complications from COVID-19 in patients who have cancer compared to those who do not.  The most comprehensive of these to date, Barek et al, reports an odds ratio (OR) of 2.32 (95% CI, 1.63-3.32) for the risk of severe complications from COVID-19 in patients with cancer.

Incidence of COVID-19 among patients with cancer

A large cohort study of over 73 million electronic health records reported by Wang et al, JAMA Oncol found an adjusted odds ratio for infection with COVID-19 of 1.46 (95% CI 1.42-1.50) in patients who have ever had cancer and 7.14 (95% 6.91-7.39) in patients with a recent (in the past year) diagnosis of cancer compared to patients who have never had cancer. The adjusted odds ratio for infection was highest in patients with recent diagnosis of leukemia (OR 12.16) and lowest in patients with recent diagnosis of thyroid cancer (OR 3.10) and ranged between 4.70 and 8.54 for other cancers. Other studies (e.g. Yu et al, JAMA Oncol; Rogado et al, Clin Transl Oncol; Bertuzzi et al, Cancers (Basel)) reported on incidence rates of COVID-19 in patients receiving active treatment for cancer between 0.79% and 4.2%.

Prevalence of cancer in patients with COVID-19

Several systematic reviews have been published (Desai et al, JCO Glob OncolEmami et al, Arch Acad Emerg MedOfori-Asenso et al, ecancermedicine; Tian et al, Int J Cancer) that include estimates of the prevalence of cancer in patients with COVID-19.  These estimates range from 0.92% to 3.4%.   

However, higher prevalence of cancer in patients with COVID-19 has been seen in studies not included in the systematic reviews due to publication date. Montopoli et al, Ann Oncol reported that among 9,280 patients with COVID-19 treated in 68 hospitals in Veneto, Italy, 8.5% had a diagnosis of cancer.

Data related to specific cancer types

Hematological Cancers

Severity and complications

Robilotti et al, Nature Med have reported a strong association (OR of 2.49, 95% CI 1.35-4.67) between hematological malignancy and risk of hospitalization in an analysis of 423 patients with COVID-19 treated at a single institution in New York City. Similar results were found in an analysis of patients included in the Turkish Ministry of Health registry (Yigenoglu et al, J Med Virol). Jee et al, J Clin Oncol found an increased severity of illness associated with hematological malignancies compared to those without hematological malignancies (HR 1.90, 95% CI, 1.30-2.80).  

Mortality

A meta-analysis by Vijenthira et al, Blood suggests a high mortality rate (34%, 95% CI 28-39%) in patients with COVID-19 and hematological malignancies. This rate was significantly associated with age (RR for patients under 60 versus over 60, 0.55; 95% CI, 0.44-0.69).

Lung Cancer

Luo et al, Ann Oncol and Calles et al, Front Oncol have reported high rates of mortality among patients with lung cancer and confirmed COVID-19, and a systematic review by Peravali et al, JTO Clin Res Rep reported an OR of 1.62 (95% CI 1.06-2.48) for increased mortality between patients with lung cancer and those with other cancers. Jee et al, J Clin Oncol found an increased severity of illness associated with lung cancer compared to those without lung cancer (HR 2.00, 95% CI 1.20-3.30). Yang et al, Cancer Res Treat found a similar increase (adjusted OR 2.24 (95% CI 1.08-4.74).

As further evidence becomes available, ASCO will update this page.

General Care: What are the recommendations for general care of patients with cancer?

ASCO encourages anyone caring for patients with cancer to follow the existing CDC guidance where possible:

In addition to the general CDC guidance, the European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) has published a consensus statement on care for patients with cancer (Curigliano et al, Ann Oncol). Also, the following practice points may be considered:

  • Patients should be informed regarding the symptoms of COVID-19 and trained in proper handwashing, hygiene, and minimizing exposure to sick contacts and large crowds.
  • At this time, no specific evidence on mask use by patients with cancer has been published. Patients and clinicians are urged to follow the CDC’s general guidance on mask wear as well as guidance from local health authorities. There is no evidence to suggest that N95 masks are required.
  • For cancer patients with fever or other symptoms of infection, a comprehensive evaluation should be performed, as per usual medical practice.

Testing for COVID-19: What information is available on testing for COVID-19?

ASCO has prepared a special report, A Guide to Cancer Care Delivery During the COVID-19 Pandemic. This report provides guidance on testing for COVID-19 in both patients with cancer and in care providers. In addition, Madariaga et al, Clin Cancer Res provide additional detail on testing strategies for patients with cancer.

Disclaimer

Answers to questions about COVID-19 published herein are provided by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (“ASCO”) for voluntary, informational use by providers in the rapidly evolving novel coronavirus crisis. This information does not constitute medical or legal advice, is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions, does not endorse products or therapies, recommend or mandate any particular course of medical care, and is not a statement of the standard of care. New evidence may emerge between the time information is developed and when it is published or read. The information is not comprehensive or continually updated. This information is not intended to substitute for the independent professional judgment of the treating provider in the context of treating the individual patient. ASCO provides this information on an “as is” basis, and makes no warranty, express or implied, regarding the information. ASCO specifically disclaims any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular use or purpose. ASCO assumes no responsibility for any injury or damage to persons or property arising out of or related to any use of this information or for any errors or omissions. Use of the information is subject to the complete ASCO website Terms of Use