What clinical characteristics of patients with cancer are associated with worse COVID-19 disease?

Infusion, Chemo Therapy, Chemo, Medical, Illness

Bottom Line:

Older age and medications called immune checkpoint inhibitors are associated with more severe COVID-19 infections in patients with cancer.


Robilotti, E.V. et al. Determinants of COVID-19 disease severity in patients with cancer. Nat Med (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-0979-0

Date Published:

24 June 2020


Previous studies have shown that patients with cancer have a higher risk of death and complications when they develop COVID-19 compared to other patients. However, it remains unknown what aspects of cancer and its treatment are responsible for this increased risk. To address this question, researchers collected clinical data from 423 patients with cancer who were also diagnosed with COVID-19 from a cancer centre in New York City. The results of the study showed that, as expected, patients with cancer who developed COVID-19 became sicker than the general population. In addition, patients were at a greater risk of developing more severe infections if they were over the age of 65 years, and if they were receiving a type of cancer medication called immune checkpoint inhibitors. On the other hand, patients who were receiving chemotherapy or had a major surgery were not predictors of severe disease. While the study was small and only conducted in a single hospital, the findings suggest that immune checkpoint inhibitors may be an important risk factor to consider when treating patients with cancer who are diagnosed with COVID-19, and this warrants further investigation.

Summary by: Louis Huynh