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VTE, sepsis risk increased among COVID-19 patients with cancer



COVID-19 patients with cancer have a significantly greater risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) and sepsis, but no greater risk of death, when compared to COVID-19 patients without cancer, according to data from a registry study.

Researchers analyzed data on 5,556 patients with COVID-19 who had an inpatient or emergency encounter at Mount Sinai Health System (MSHS) in New York between March 1 and May 27, 2020. Patients were included in an anonymous MSHS COVID-19 registry.

There were 421 patients who had cancer: 96 with a hematologic malignancy and 325 with solid tumors.

After adjustment for age, gender, and number of comorbidities, the odds ratios for acute VTE and sepsis for patients with cancer (versus those without cancer) were 1.77 and 1.34, respectively. The adjusted odds ratio for mortality in cancer patients was 1.02.

The results remained “relatively consistent” after stratification by solid and nonsolid cancer types, with no significant difference in outcomes between those two groups, and results remained consistent in a propensity-matched model, according to Naomi Alpert, a biostatistician at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

Ms. Alpert reported these findings at the AACR virtual meeting: COVID-19 and Cancer.

She noted that the cancer patients were older than the noncancer patients (mean age, 69.2 years vs. 63.8 years), and cancer patients were more likely to have two or more comorbid conditions (48.2% vs. 30.4%). Cancer patients also had significantly lower hemoglobin levels and red blood cell, platelet, and white blood cell counts (P < .01 for all).

“Low white blood cell count may be one of the reasons for higher risk of sepsis in cancer patients, as it may lead to a higher risk of infection,” Ms. Alpert said. “However, it’s not clear what role cancer therapies play in the risks of COVID-19 morbidity and mortality, so there is still quite a bit to learn.”

In fact, the findings are limited by a lack of information about cancer treatment, as the registry was not designed for that purpose, she noted.

Another study limitation is the short follow-up of a month or less in most patients, due, in part, to the novelty of COVID-19, but also to the lack of information on patients after they left the hospital.

“However, we had a very large sample size, with more than 400 cancer patients included, and, to our knowledge, this is the largest analysis of its kind to be done so far,” Ms. Alpert said. “In the future, it’s going to be very important to assess the effect of cancer therapies on COVID-19 complications and to see if prior therapies had any effect on outcomes.”

Longer follow-up would also be helpful for assessing the chronic effects of COVID-19 on cancer patients over time, she said. “It would be important to see whether some of these elevated risks of venous thromboembolism and sepsis are associated with longer-term mortality risks than what we were able to measure here,” she added.

Asked about the discrepancy between mortality in this study and those of larger registries, such as the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) and TERAVOLT, Ms. Alpert noted that the current study included only patients who required hospitalization or emergency care.

“Our mortality rate was actually a bit higher than what was reported in some of the other studies,” she said. “We had about a 30% mortality rate in the cancer patients and about 25% for the noncancer patients, so ... we’re sort of looking at a subset of patients who we know are the sickest of the sick, which may explain some of the higher mortality that we’re seeing.”

Ms. Alpert reported having no disclosures.

SOURCE: Alpert N et al. AACR COVID-19 and Cancer, Abstract S12-02.

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