TERAVOLT Data Suggest High Death Rate in Lung Cancer Patients With COVID-19

Alan P. Lyss, MD

April 30, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's  Coronavirus Resource Center.

AACR 2020 — Registry data suggest an "unexpectedly high" mortality rate among patients with lung cancer who develop COVID-19, according to a presenter at the AACR virtual meeting I.

Data from the TERAVOLT registry showed a 34.6% mortality rate among 200 patients with COVID-19 and lung cancer, according to Marina Chiara Garassino, MD, of Fondazione IRCCS Instituto Nazionale dei Tumor in Milan, Italy, who presented the data at the meeting in a session on cancer and COVID-19.

Cancer patients infected with COVID-19 have been reported to be at increased risk of death, but the magnitude of increase is uncertain.

Patients with lung cancer may be particularly vulnerable because of older age, tobacco use, preexisting cardiopulmonary comorbidities, and the immunosuppressive effects of treatment.

The global TERAVOLT registry was begun in late March 2020 to provide outcome data for coronavirus infections in thoracic cancer patients specifically. It is hoped that the data collected will guide patient management and define factors influencing morbidity and mortality.

Dr Garassino said that institutions from 21 countries have joined the TERAVOLT registry thus far. Currently, about 17 new patients with thoracic cancer and laboratory confirmed or clinically suspected COVID-19 are added to the registry each week.

As of April 12, 2020, there were 200 patients included in the registry. Their median age was 68 years, and 70.5% were men. Non–small cell lung cancer was the histology in 75.5% and small cell lung cancer in 14.5% of patients. Most patients (73.5%) had stage IV disease. Approximately 27% of patients had at least three comorbid conditions.

About 74% of patients were on current cancer treatment, with 19% on tyrosine kinase inhibitors alone, 32.7% on chemotherapy alone, 23.1% on immunotherapy alone, and 13.6% on chemotherapy plus immunotherapy.

In all, 152 patients (76.0%) were hospitalized. However, 91.2% of patients were not admitted to the ICU, either because of a shortage of equipment or institutional policy.

The most common complications were pneumonia/pneumonitis (79.6%), acute respiratory distress syndrome (26.8%), multiorgan failure (7.6%), and sepsis (5.1%). A total of 66 patients (34.6%) died. Most deaths were attributed to COVID-19 and not the underlying cancer, Dr. Garassino said.

A univariate analysis showed no association between cancer treatment and an increased risk of hospitalization or death. However, Dr. Garassino and colleagues are collecting more data to confirm these results. In a multivariate analysis, no factors were associated with the risk of death, although data from a larger number of patients may shed more light on that issue.

TERAVOLT will continue to collect and provide data to identify characteristics associated with severe COVID-19–related illness, to guide physicians with information applicable to patients with thoracic malignancies, tailored to individual risk.

Like the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium and the ESMO CoCare registry, TERAVOLT represents a way for the patient care and translational science communities to share lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic.

AACR plans to help share those lessons as well, in another session on COVID-19 and cancer at the AACR virtual meeting II in June and at a conference on COVID-19 and cancer in July, according to session moderator Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD, of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Dr. Lyss was a community-based medical oncologist and clinical researcher for more than 35 years before his recent retirement. His clinical and research interests were focused on breast and lung cancers as well as expanding clinical trial access to medically underserved populations. He is based in St. Louis. He has no conflicts of interest.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com.

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