Lung cancer linked to higher mortality in COVID-19

Lung cancer

12 May 2020

Cancer specialists from several countries have used the American Association for Cancer Research’s virtual meeting to report their early experiences of the impact of COVID-19 disease in cancer patients, including how lung involvement may be a risk for higher mortality.

Dr Carlos Gomez-Martin from Madrid, Spain, told the meeting that of the first 63 patients with cancer and COVID-19 admitted at his institution, more than half developed respiratory failure, nearly 40% developed ARDS and 25% died.  He noted that patients with cancer with lung involvement, an ECOG status of 2 or higher, severe neutropenia, or those with bilateral lung infiltrates during their baseline CT scan had significantly increased mortality.

To further investigate the impact of COVID-19 disease in lung cancer patients, Italian oncologists have set up a global registry, called TERAVOLT (Thoracic cancERs international coVid 19 cOLlaboraTion), which has already accumulated reports from 260 patients with thoracic cancers.

“The goals of this consortium are to provide data for guidance to oncology professionals on managing patients with thoracic malignancies while understanding the risk factors for morbidity and mortality from this novel virus,” said Dr Marina Chiara Garassino from Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori in Milan.

Dr Garassino  said their analysis of outcomes for the first 200 patients  – mostly with NSCLC- enrolled in TERAVOLT registry suggested that COVID-19 was associated with more severe complications in patients with thoracic cancers.

The most reported complication in this patient population was pneumonia/pneumonitis, affecting almost 80% of evaluable patients. Further, almost 27% of patients had ARDS. Over 75% of patients were hospitalised, and almost 35% of patients died, either at the hospital, in the ICU, or at home.

“Our data suggest an unexpectedly high mortality among thoracic cancer patients,” Dr Garassino said. The cause of death in the large majority of patients is attributed to COVID-19 and not cancer, she added.

“Things are moving quickly,” Garassino said, noting that this collaboration is registering roughly 70 patients per week from across the globe. “With a strong united thoracic community, we were able to activate a global registry and provide preliminary data in only one month, in absence of dedicated funding.”

AACR President-Elect Dr Antoni Ribas told the meeting that the AACR has set up a COVID-19 and Cancer Task Force and will include sessions on COVID-19 and cancer in Virtual Annual Meeting II, held June 22-24. The AACR is also holding a dedicated meeting focused on COVID-19 and cancer in July, and a call for abstracts on this topic will be circulated soon.

This feature is based on an article published on 1 May from Cancer Research Catalyst, the American Association for Cancer Research’s official blog.

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