Clinical Factors and Treatment Tied to COVID-19 Mortality in Patients With Cancer

Walter Alexander

October 09, 2020

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Mortality in patients with COVID-19 and cancer is associated with general clinical and demographic factors, cancer-specific factors, cancer treatment variables, and laboratory parameters, according to two presentations at the European Society for Medical Oncology Virtual Congress 2020.

Two analyses of data from the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) were presented at the meeting.

The data suggest that older age, male sex, more comorbidities, poor performance status, progressive cancer or multiple cancers, hematologic malignancy, and recent cancer therapy are all associated with higher mortality among patients with cancer and COVID-19. Anti-CD20 therapy is associated with an especially high mortality rate, according to an investigator.

Among hospitalized patients, increased absolute neutrophil count as well as abnormal D-dimer, high-sensitivity troponin, and C-reactive protein are associated with a higher risk of mortality.

Prior analyses of CCC19 data pointed to several factors associated with higher COVID-19 death rates, according to Petros Grivas, MD, PhD, of University of Washington, Seattle, who presented some CCC19 data at the meeting. However, the prior analyses were limited by weak statistical power and low event rates, Grivas said.

Clinical and Laboratory Factors: Abstract LBA72

The aim of Grivas's analysis was to validate a priori identified demographic and clinicopathologic factors associated with 30-day all-cause mortality in patients with COVID-19 and cancer. Grivas and colleagues also explored the potential association between laboratory parameters and 30-day all-cause mortality.

The analysis included 3,899 patients with cancer and COVID-19 from 124 centers. Most centers are in the United States, but 4% are in Canada, and 2% are in Spain. About two-thirds of patients were 60 years of age or younger at baseline, half were men, 79% had solid tumors, and 21% had hematologic malignancies.

Cancer-specific factors associated with an increased risk of 30-day all-cause mortality were having progressive cancer (adjusted odds ratio, 2.9), receiving cancer therapy within 3 months (aOR, 1.2), having a hematologic versus solid tumor (aOR, 1.7), and having multiple malignancies (aOR, 1.5).

Clinical factors associated with an increased risk of 30-day all-cause mortality were Black versus White race (aOR, 1.5), older age (aOR, 1.7 per 10 years), three or more actively treated comorbidities (versus none; aOR, 2.1), and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status of 2 or more (versus 0; aOR, 4.6).

In hospitalized patients, several laboratory variables were associated with an increased risk of 30-day all-cause mortality. Having an absolute neutrophil count above the upper limit of normal doubled the risk (aOR, 2.0), while abnormal D-dimer, high-sensitivity troponin, and C-reactive protein all more than doubled the risk of mortality (aORs of 2.5, 2.5, and 2.4, respectively).

Further risk modeling with multivariable analysis will be performed after longer follow-up, Grivas noted.

Treatment-Related Outcomes: Abstract LBA71

An additional analysis of CCC19 data encompassed 3,654 patients. In this analysis, researchers investigated the correlation between timing of cancer treatment and COVID-19–related complications and 30-day mortality.

Mortality was highest among cancer patients treated 1-3 months prior to COVID-19 diagnosis, with all-cause mortality at 28%, said Trisha M. Wise-Draper, MD, PhD, of University of Cincinnati, when presenting the data at the meeting.

Rates for other complications (hospitalization, oxygen required, ICU admission, and mechanical ventilation) were similar regardless of treatment timing.

The unadjusted 30-day mortality rate was highest for patients treated most recently with chemoimmunotherapy (30%), followed by chemotherapy (18%), chemoradiotherapy (18%), and targeted therapy (17%).

The mortality rate was "particularly high," at 50%, in patients receiving anti-CD20 therapy 1-3 months prior to COVID-19 diagnosis — the time period for which significant B-cell depletion develops, Wise-Draper observed.

An analysis of disease status among 1,449 patients treated within 3 months of COVID-19 diagnosis showed mortality risk increasing from 6% among patients in remission or with newly emergent disease, to 22% in patients with any active cancer, to 34% in those with progressing disease, Wise-Draper said.

Discussant Benjamin Solomon, MD, PhD, of Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, made note of the high 30-day mortality rate seen in patients receiving anti-CD20 therapy as well as the elevated standardized mortality ratios with recent chemoimmunotherapy and targeted therapy.

"Although there are some limitations of this analysis, it provides the best data we have to date about the effects of treatment on early mortality in patients with COVID-19 and cancer. It points to a modest but heterogeneous effect of treatment on outcome, one which is likely to become clearer with larger cohorts and additional analysis," Solomon said.

This research was funded by the American Cancer Society, Hope Foundation for Cancer Research, Jim and Carol O'Hare Fund, National Cancer Institute, National Human Genome Research Institute, Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, and Fonds de Recherche du Quebec-Sante. Grivas disclosed relationships with many companies, but none are related to this work. Wise-Draper disclosed relationships with Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Tesaro, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Shattuck Labs, and Rakuten. Solomon disclosed relationships with Amgen, AstraZeneca, Merck, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Novartis, Pfizer, and Roche-Genentech.

SOURCES: Grivas P et al. ESMO 2020, Abstract LBA72; Wise-Draper TM et al. ESMO 2020, Abstract LBA71.

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