Deaths from COVID-19 Have Decreased Over Time for Cancer Patients

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COVID-19-related mortality has decreased over time for patients with cancer, according to research published in the European Journal of Cancer.

The COVID-19-related death rate decreased from 15.2% in the first period studied to 5.8% in the last period studied.

The study included 761 consecutive patients with cancer and SARS-CoV-2 infection from the Veneto Oncology Network registry in Italy. Researchers looked at outcomes over 2 time periods — February 2020 to mid-September 2020 and mid-September 2020 to May 2021. However, the team also considered the timing of a vaccination campaign for patients with cancer, which launched on February 22, 2021.

There were 198 patients from the first time period, 494 patients from the second time period before the vaccination campaign began, and 69 patients from the second time period after the vaccination campaign was launched.

Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 during the second time period were younger (=.004), more likely to have a good performance status (<.001), and less likely to have 2 or more comorbidities (=.002). Those diagnosed in the second time period were also more likely to be on active cancer therapy (=.006).

Patients were more likely to have an in-hospital potential source of SARS-CoV-2 infection during the first time period than the second time period — 22% and 3%-4%, respectively (<.001).

Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 during the second time period were more commonly asymptomatic (=.003), and they were less likely to be hospitalized (<.001) or admitted to the intensive care unit (=.006).

The all-cause mortality rate was 30.3% during the first time period, 8.9% in the second time period before the vaccination campaign launched, and 8.7% after the start of the vaccination campaign (<.001). The COVID-19-related mortality rate was 15.2%, 7.5%, and 5.8%, respectively (P =.004).

“The increased testing capacity, the adoption of new testing policies for cancer patients, and the implementation of measures to protect patients and the clinical staff explain differences in characteristics of patients and SARS-CoV-2 infection observed in [the first and second time periods] that may have driven a reduced mortality risk,” the researchers wrote.

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