Black and Hispanic Patients with Cancer More Likely to Have COVID-19 Disease

October 12, 2020

According to findings from the ASCO Quality Care Symposium, Black and Hispanic patients with cancer may be more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than white patients.

Black and Hispanic patients with cancer may be more likely to be infected with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) than white patients, according to findings from a study presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s (ASCO) Quality Care Symposium, which took place virtually October 9-10, 2020.

“Patients with cancer are, unfortunately, faced with balancing cancer treatments with the risk of developing COVID-19,” Robert S. Miller, MD, FACP, FASCO, medical director for CancerLinQ, said in a press release. “This research, while preliminary, will hopefully help patients and providers understand who’s most at risk for COVID-19 and plan cancer treatment accordingly.”

Using data obtained from ASCO’s CancerLinQ (CLQ) Discovery database, researchers identified patients with cancer who had either a positive test for SARS-CoV-2 or a diagnosis code for COVID-19 disease in electronic health record data from oncology practices that subscribed to CLQ. For comparison, the baseline cancer population in the same oncology practices was also assessed.

Between January 2020 and August 2020, researchers identified a total of 965 patients with cancer who had COVID-19 out of a total of 477,613 patients with cancer in the practices studied.

Patients with cancer who were Hispanic were found to be 5.25 times as likely as non-Hispanic patients to have COVID-19. Patients with cancer who were Black were also found to be 1.69 times as likely as white patients to have COVID-19. In addition, patients who had hematologic cancers were 1.36 times as likely to have COVID-19 as patients with solid tumors.

Of those found to have COVID-19 in the study, 5.4% (52/965) died, although with the data provided researchers were not able to determine a cause of death. Notably though, the majority of deaths occurred in patients who were age 70 or older.

“It’s important to gather data about people with cancer during this pandemic because it helps us to understand the risks to these different populations and potentially develop mitigation strategies,” Miller said in a presentation of the data.

The elevated risk for COVID-19 among Blacks and Hispanics with cancer is particularly noteworthy, as these patients often suffer poorer cancer outcomes. Additionally, the elevated risk among patients with hematologic cancers is also noteworthy, because these patients typically have compromised immune systems and are already susceptible to many other types of infection.

“All patients with cancer need to take precautions that are known to be effective, such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and getting flu shots, but this is particularly important for patients that are part of minority populations,” Miller continued.

The researchers intend to continue evaluating data as this patient population continues to grow. Moving forward, they hope to determine whether other factors, such as stage at diagnosis, presence of certain malignancies, and certain types of cancer treatment, may also increase a patient’s risk for contracting COVID-19. Moreover, the investigators intend to look for more specific risk factors for death related to COVID-19 in patients with cancer.

References:

CancerLinQ Data Reveals Black and Hispanic Patients With Cancer Face Greater Risk of COVID-19 Infection [news release]. Alexandria, Virginia. Published October 5, 2020. Accessed October 9, 2020. https://www.asco.org/about-asco/press-center/news-releases/cancerlinq-data-reveals-black-and-hispanic-patients-cancer?cid=DM6113&bid=59026103