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Study: Gynecologic cancer therapy does not increase COVID-19 risks



Women with gynecologic cancers can safely continue anticancer therapy, despite the threat of COVID-19, according to researchers.

The team found no significant association between recent anticancer therapy and COVID-19 hospitalization or mortality among patients with gynecologic cancers and COVID-19.

Some gynecologic cancer patients have expressed concerns that chemotherapy would weaken their immune system and increase their risk of more severe illness if they developed COVID-19, according to Olivia Lara, MD, a gynecologic oncology fellow at New York University.

Furthermore, some prior studies had shown an increased risk of health complications from COVID-19 among cancer patients. However, patients with gynecologic cancer were underrepresented in those studies.

With all this in mind, Dr. Lara and colleagues conducted a study of 193 patients with gynecologic cancers and COVID-19 who were treated at eight hospital systems in the New York City area from March 2020 through May 2020.

Dr. Lara presented the results at the Society of Gynecologic Oncology’s Virtual Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer (Abstract 10663).

Study results

Of the 193 patients analyzed, 106 (54.9%) required hospitalization for COVID-19, including 13 (12.3%) who required mechanical ventilation and 39 (36.8%) who required ICU admission. There were 34 patients (17.6%) who died of COVID-19-related complications, including all who required mechanical ventilation.

Multivariable analyses showed that recent cytotoxic chemotherapy, which was used in 13 of the 34 patients who died (38.2%), and recent immunotherapy, which was used in 4 of the 34 patients (11.8%), were not predictive of COVID-19 hospitalization or mortality.

Only current or former smoking was associated with COVID-19-related death (odds ratio, 2.75).

An earlier analysis of data from 121 patients in this cohort showed an association between immunotherapy and COVID-19-related death, but this was no longer statistically significant in the updated analysis.

Factors significantly associated with hospitalization in the updated cohort were age 65 years or older (OR, 2.12), Black race (OR, 2.53), performance status of 2 or greater (OR, 3.67), and the presence of three or more comorbidities (OR, 2.00), the most common of which were hypertension, diabetes, and chronic kidney disease.

More research needed

The current findings show that recent chemotherapy or immunotherapy for gynecologic cancer do not raise the risk of death due to COVID-19, Dr. Lara said, adding that “[w]e can reassure women with gynecologic cancer that they can continue anticancer therapy.”

The finding of a nearly threefold increased risk of hospitalization among Black patients in this study underscores the need for “better understanding of the risks of COVID-19 in vulnerable populations,” Dr. Lara noted.

“Going forward, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer care delivery and cancer screening must be evaluated,” she said. “Data collection is ongoing, with additional analyses and studies planned to investigate the impact COVID-19 has had on gynecologic cancer care through the SGO registry.”

The current findings are strengthened by the collaborative multicenter study design and use of multivariable analyses, said invited discussant and study coauthor Bhavana Pothuri, MD, of New York University.

However, it is unclear whether the results are generalizable to other parts of the country or world, and whether the outcomes have changed since the initial surge of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Lara said the fatality rate in this cohort is similar to that of age-matched women with COVID-19 who did not have cancer, and she acknowledged that fatality rates may be lower now than they were early in the pandemic when the study was conducted.

This study was supported, in part, by a Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute. Dr. Lara reported having no disclosures. Dr. Pothuri disclosed relationships with Tesaro/GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Merck, Genentech/Roche, Celsion, Clovis Oncology, Toray, Mersana, Elevar, and Eisai. She is also a member of GOG Partners leadership.

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