Conference Coverage

COVID-19–related outcomes poor for patients with hematologic disease in ASH registry



Patients with hematologic disease who develop COVID-19 may experience substantial morbidity and mortality related to SARS-CoV-2 infection, according to recent registry data reported at the all-virtual annual meeting of the American Society of Hematology.

Overall mortality was 28% for the first 250 patients entered into the ASH Research Collaborative COVID-19 Registry for Hematology, researchers reported in an abstract of their study findings.

However, the burden of death and moderate-to-severe COVID-19 outcomes was highest in patients with poorer prognosis and those with relapsed/refractory hematological disease, they added.

The most commonly represented malignancies were acute leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and myeloma or amyloidosis, according to the report.

Taken together, the findings do support an “emerging consensus” that COVID-19 related morbidity and mortality is significant in these patients, authors said – however, the current findings may not be reason enough to support a change in treatment course for the underlying disease.

“We see no reason, based on our data, to withhold intensive therapies from patients with underlying hematologic malignancies and favorable prognoses, if aggressive supportive care is consistent with patient preferences,” wrote the researchers.

ASH President Stephanie Lee, MD, MPH, said these registry findings are important to better understand how SARS-CoV-2 is affecting not only patients with hematologic diseases, but also individuals who experience COVID-19-related hematologic complications.

However, the findings are limited due to the heterogeneity of diseases, symptoms, and treatments represented in the registry, said Dr. Lee, associate director of the clinical research division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle.

“More data will be coming in, but I think this is an example of trying to harness real-world information to try to learn things until we get more controlled studies,” Dr. Lee said in a media briefing held in advance of the ASH meeting.

Comorbidities and more

Patients with blood cancers are often older and may have comorbidities such as diabetes or hypertension that have been linked to poor COVID-19 outcomes, according to the authors of the report, led by William A. Wood, MD, MPH, associate professor of medicine with the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Moreover, these patients may have underlying immune dysfunction and may receive chemotherapy or immunotherapy that is “profoundly immunosuppressive,” Dr. Wood and coauthors said in their report.

To date, however, risks of morbidity and mortality related to SARS-CoV-2 infection have not been well defined in this patient population, authors said.

More data is emerging now from the ASH Research Collaborative COVID-19 Registry for Hematology, which includes data on patients positive for COVID-19 who have a past or present hematologic condition or have experienced a hematologic complication related to COVID-19.

All data from the registry is being made available through a dashboard on the ASH Research Collaborative website, which as of Dec. 1, 2020, included 693 complete cases.

The data cut in the ASH abstract includes the first 250 patients enrolled at 74 sites around the world, the authors said. The most common malignancies included acute leukemia in 33%, non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 27%, and myeloma or amyloidosis in 16%.

The most frequently reported symptoms included fever in 73%, cough in 67%, dyspnea in 50%, and fatigue in 40%, according to that report.

At the time of this data snapshot, treatment with COVID-19-directed therapies including hydroxychloroquine or azithromycin were common, reported in 76 and 59 patients, respectively, in the cohort.

Batch submissions from sites with high incidence of COVID-19 infection are ongoing. The registry has been expanded to include nonmalignant hematologic diseases, and the registry will continue to accumulate data as a resource for the hematology community.

Overall mortality was 28% at the time, according to the abstract, with nearly all of the deaths occurring in patients classified as having COVID-19 that was moderate (i.e., requiring hospitalization) or severe (i.e., requiring ICU admission).

“In some instances, death occurred after a decision was made to forgo ICU admission in favor of a palliative approach,” said Dr. Wood and coauthors in their report.

Dr. Wood reported research funding from Pfizer, consultancy with Teladoc/Best Doctors, and honoraria from the ASH Research Collaborative. Coauthors provided disclosures related to Celgene, Madrigal Pharmaceuticals, Pharmacyclics, and Amgen, among others.

SOURCE: Wood WA et al. ASH 2020, Abstract 215.

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