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New Big Data Study Investigates How People With Cancer Fare When They Get Covid-19

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New research has provided important information describing which individuals with cancer are more likely to experience severe outcomes or die if they contract the SARS-CoV2 coronavirus.

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The study used data from the Syapse® learning health network, allowing for the analysis of over 154,585 people who had received a diagnosis of cancer and were treated within the last five years across three large health systems in the Midwest United States.

The work was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Virtual Meeting on Covid-19 and Cancer in mid-July.

“The rapidity with which we conceived of, designed and analyzed this study is nothing short of impressive and has enabled us to better understand and anticipate the clinical outcomes of patients with cancer and Covid-19,” said Shirish M. Gadgeel, M.D., Division Head for Hematology/Oncology, Associate Director, Patient Experience and Clinical Care at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, who led the study.

Of these 150,000+ patients with cancer, 800 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 between February and May this year. The study found that people with cancer diagnosed with Covid-19 were more likely to also have other health conditions (co-morbidities) affecting the kidneys, heart, lungs and blood vessels. Older people with cancer were more likely to die from Covid-19, reflecting what is also seen in people without cancer.

The researchers hope that this information will help oncologists identify which of their patients might be at a greater risk of severe or fatal outcomes from Covid-19 and take appropriate action to try and prevent the infection, or attempt to treat it quickly if patients do get sick.

The work also found that non-hispanic Black people with cancer who contracted Covid-19 were more likely to be hospitalized and receive mechanical ventilation than people from other racial groups with cancer. Additionally, people with cancer and a low average household income of $0-30k were also more likely to have worse outcomes with Covid-19 than those with higher household incomes.

“Our data reflects healthcare disparities that are well recognized in the U.S., relating to both income and race, that are multi-factorial. One can presume that these healthcare disparities are only exacerbated in a healthcare crisis such as the current pandemic,” said Gadgeel.

The researchers hope to build on their study by expanding the number of patients included, looking at relationships between certain types of cancer therapy and Covid-19 outcomes and figuring out what the long-term effects of Covid-19 are in patients with cancer.

“We continue to explore ways to leverage real-world evidence in order to optimize treatments for cancer patients — especially those impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Thomas Brown, M.D., M.B.A., Chief Medical Officer at Syapse.

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