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COVID-19 Vaccine Safe and Effective in Cancer Patients on Active Treatment

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – A new study confirms the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in adults with cancer receiving active treatment, a potentially vulnerable population.

Researchers at Montefiore Health System and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, reviewed a diverse group of 200 patients undergoing anticancer therapy for a wide variety of malignancies.

After full vaccination with one of the approved COVID-19 vaccines, 94% of the patients demonstrated seroconversion, determined by the presence of antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein.

Response rates were very high among patients with solid tumors (98%) but a bit lower in those with hematological malignancies (85%), particularly patients on highly immunosuppressive therapies such as anti-CD20 therapies (70%) and stem cell transplantation (73%), although these rates were still much higher than expected, the researchers say.

Patients receiving immune-checkpoint inhibitors (97%) or hormonal therapies (100%) demonstrated high seroconversion following vaccination.

Patients with prior COVID-19 infection demonstrated higher anti-spike IgG titers post-vaccination.

Relatively lower IgG titers were observed after vaccination with the adenoviral than mRNA-based vaccines.

“These data demonstrate generally high immunogenicity of COVID-19 vaccination in oncology patients and identify immunosuppressed cohorts that need novel vaccination or passive immunization strategies,” the study team writes in Cancer Cell.

“Studies from early in the pandemic found that cancer patients who get COVID-19 have higher rates of morbidity and mortality compared to the general population,” senior co-author Dr. Amit Verma said in a news release.

“We really need efforts to protect these vulnerable patients from infection. This study should help people feel reassured that these vaccines work very well, even in those receiving chemotherapy or immunotherapy,” Dr. Verma added.

“This study confirms that there is no need for patients to wait for vaccination until they finish their chemotherapy or immunotherapy,” added senior co-author Dr. Balazs Halmos.

“The side effects from vaccination seen in these populations were not substantially worse than in other groups. Not a single patient had to go to the emergency room or be admitted to the hospital because of side effects from the vaccines,” Dr. Halmos said.

“Our findings support broad and urgent COVID-19 vaccinations in patients with a cancer diagnosis enabling optimal cancer treatment delivery during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” the team concludes.

SOURCE: https://bit.ly/3cNrR2z Cancer Cell, online June 5, 2021.

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