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94 per cent of cancer patients react well to COVID-19 vaccines – study

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Manish Saini
Manish works as a Journalist and writer at Revyuh.com. He has studied Political Science and graduated from Delhi University. He is a Political engineer, fascinated by politics, and traditional businesses. He is also attached to many NGO's in the country and helping poor children to get the basic education. Email: Manish (at) revyuh (dot) com

A new study found that almost all cancer patients, who received their second dose of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines after three to four weeks, developed a good immune response.

However, the fact that a small group of the patients showed no response raised concerns about how their protection against the virus will be addressed moving forward.

Of the 131 patients studied, 94% developed anti-coronavirus antibodies. Seven high-risk patients missed it.

We could not find any antibodies against the virus in those patients

said Dr Dimpy P. Shah from Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson.

That has implications for the future. Should we provide a third dose of vaccine after cancer therapy has completed in certain high-risk patients?

Dr Dimpy P. Shah is the corresponding author of this report. Co-authors are from the Mays Cancer Center and the University of Geneva.

With other vaccines and infections, patients with cancer have been shown not to develop as robust an immune response as the general population

said study senior coauthor Ruben Mesa and executive director of the Mays Cancer Center.

It made sense, therefore, to hypothesize that certain high-risk groups of patients do not have antibody response to COVID-19 vaccine.

Patients with hematological malignancies, such as myeloma and Hodgkin lymphoma, were less likely to respond to vaccination than those with solid tumors

said Dr Pankil K. Shah, co-lead author of the study and MD, senior oncologist at the Geneva University Hospital.

Of the high-risk groups, patients receiving treatment known as rituximab within six months of vaccination did not develop any antibodies. Rituximab is a monoclonal antibody used to treat hematological cancers and autoimmune disorders.

Patients under chemotherapy which is toxic to cells developed antibody response, but it was muted when compared to the general population.

How that relates to protection against COVID-19, we don’t know yet

Dr Dimpy Shah said.

The new delta variant of COVID and other mutants of the COVID-19 virus were not considered as part of this study. Nor has the team analysed the response of T and B lymphocytes that fight infection in cancer patients.

The average age of the subjects in the study was 63 years. The majority of patients (106) had solid cancers rather than malignant hematological tumours (25). 80% of the population was non-Hispanic white, 18% Hispanic and 2% Black.

We recommend that future studies be done in Black, Asian and Hispanic patients, as well, to see if there are any differences in vaccination immune response

Dr Mesa said.

In countries where there is no vaccination, it is said that one dose could give enough protection, but this may not be case for patients with cancer, said Dr Dimpy Shah.

We observed a significant difference in response when two doses were given. At least for patients with cancer, two doses are very important for robust antibody response

Dr Shah said.

According to Dr.Pankil Shah, the study is unique because, unlike some previous studies that assessed the immune response on the day of the second dose or within seven days, the study waited three to four weeks for outcomes.

High-risk cancer patients, particularly those receiving anti-CD20 antibodies, should continue to take precautions even after vaccination, says the study.

They still need to have that awareness that they could potentially be at risk because their body has not responded to vaccination

Dr Pankil Shah said.

The results of the study were published in the journal “Cancer Cell”.

Photo by Omar Marques/Getty Images

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