Nine patients died. The rate of death was 8% overall and 27% among hospitalized patients.
“The mortality rate of COVID-19 in the general population without comorbidities is about 1.4%,” Dr. Rogiers said. “For cancer patients, this is reported to be in the range of 7.6%-12%. To what extent patients on immune checkpoint inhibition are at a higher risk of mortality is currently unknown.”
Theoretically, immune checkpoint inhibition could either mitigate or exacerbate COVID-19 infection. It has been hypothesized that immune checkpoint inhibitors could increase the risk of severe acute lung injury or other complications of COVID-19, Dr. Rogiers said, explaining the rationale for the study.
The study shows that the patients who died had a median age of 72 years (range, 49-81 years), which is slightly higher than the median overall age of 63 years. Six patients were from North America, and three were from Italy.
“Two melanoma patients and two non–small cell lung cancer patients died,” Dr. Rogiers said. He noted that two other deaths were in patients with renal cell carcinoma, and three deaths were in other cancer types. All patients had advanced or metastatic disease.
Given that 57% of patients in the study had melanoma and 17% had NSCLC, this finding may indicate that COVID-19 has a slightly higher mortality rate in NSCLC patients than in melanoma patients, but the numbers are small, Dr. Rogiers said.
Notably, six of the patients who died were not admitted to the ICU. In four cases, this was because of underlying malignancy; in the other two cases, it was because of a constrained health care system, Dr. Rogiers said.
Overall, the findings show that the mortality rate of patients with COVID-19 and cancer treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors is similar to the mortality rate reported in the general cancer population, Dr. Rogiers said.
“Treatment with immune checkpoint inhibition does not seem to pose an additional mortality risk for cancer patients with COVID-19,” he concluded.
Dr. Rogiers reported having no conflicts of interest. There was no funding disclosed for the study.
SOURCE: Rogiers A et al. AACR: COVID-19 and Cancer,