Israeli study finds some cancer patients may not be high risk of coronavirus

Treatments may make symptoms less severe


Covid-19 symptoms may be less severe among some cancer patients, according to an Israeli study which casts doubt on claims those with solid tumours are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.
The study led by researchers at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Rambam Health Care Campus found that some cancer treatments used for solid tumours - such as in breast or lung cancers - may in fact make coronavirus symptoms less severe. 
“The general thought is that cancer patients are at a high risk of developing acute diseases because of the infection,” said Prof Yuval Shaked, an expert involved in the study. “We found that this is not the case.” 

“All the cases we have tested that were positive for Covid-19 didn’t have any symptoms,” he added.
The hypothesis, published in a peer-reviewed journal last month, is based on a small study of 164 cancer patients and a healthy control group of 107 healthcare workers, and found an antibody rate of about 2 percent across both groups.
“Due to changes in the immune system, mostly weaker immune systems, in cancer patients that are treated with chemotherapy or other anti-cancer drugs, these changes in the immune system actually make the Covid-19 virus not be effective in terms of being symptomatic.”
“The weaker the immune system is, the stronger the immune response against the virus, which is the major issue of Covid-19.”
But the hypothesis was tested on a “very small population of patients” and more research is needed for results to be conclusive, Prof Shaked said, urging the public to remain cautious and avoid infection. 
He also stressed that the findings do not apply to those with cancers affecting the blood, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, who are in fact at a higher risk. “It was not done across the board, for all different cancers, all different treatments. So I would suggest people stay safe and avoid infection.” 
The point of the study, he said, was to “show that maybe what we think about COVID-19 and about cancer needs further investigation” to assess the actual risk among cancer patients. 


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