COVID-19 and Cancer: Special Considerations for Patients Receiving Immunotherapy and Immunosuppressive Cancer Therapies.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book


washington; swedish; covid-19; Antibodies, Monoclonal; Antiviral Agents; COVID-19; COVID-19 Vaccines; Humans; Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors; Immunologic Factors; Immunotherapy; Neoplasms; SARS-CoV-2; Vaccination


Patients with cancer generally have a higher risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19, with higher age, male sex, poor performance status, cancer type, and uncontrolled malignant disease as the main risk factors. However, the influence of specific cancer therapies varies and raises concerns during the pandemic. In patients undergoing cancer immunotherapy or other immunosuppressive cancer treatments, we summarize the evidence on outcomes from COVID-19; address the safety, immunogenicity, and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccination; and review COVID-19 antiviral therapeutics for the patient with cancer. Despite higher mortality for patients with cancer, treatment with immune checkpoint inhibitors does not seem to increase mortality risk based on observational evidence. Inhibitory therapies directed toward B-cell lineages, including monoclonal antibodies against CD20 and CAR T-cell therapies, are associated with poor outcomes in COVID-19; however, the data are sparse. Regarding vaccination in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors, clinical efficacy comparable to that in the general population can be expected. In patients undergoing B-cell-depleting therapy, immunogenicity and clinical efficacy are curtailed, but vaccination is not futile, which is thought to be due to the cellular response. Vaccine reactogenicity and toxicity in all groups of patients with cancer are comparable to that of the general population. Preexposure prophylaxis with monoclonal antibodies directed against the viral spike may provide passive immunity for those not likely to mount an adequate vaccine response. If infected, prompt treatment with monoclonal antibodies or oral small molecule antivirals is beneficial, though with oral antiviral therapies, care must be taken to avoid drug interactions in patients with cancer.

Clinical Institute



Infectious Diseases