Global study looks at Covid-19 infection in young cancer patients

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  • Children and teenagers with cancer have an increased risk of severe Covid-19.
  • They also have a higher mortality rate compared to their healthy peers.
  • This is the first global study to look at the link between cancer and Covid-19 in people under 19 years of age.

A new global study has found that children and teenagers suffering from cancer and subsequently infected with Covid-19 have a higher risk of severe disease and death than their peers.

The research published in The Lancet Oncology aimed to understand the clinical course and outcomes of SARS-CoV-2 infection in children and adolescents with cancer.

The study cohort

The researchers needed child- and Covid-19-related studies, and used journal articles from 131 institutions in 45 countries.

They then created a global registry of Covid-19 in childhood cancer and lab-confirmed Covid-19 results in children and adolescents under the age of 19.

They also used data relating to demographics, oncological diagnosis, clinical course, and cancer therapy details.

The study cohort consisted of 1 500 patients who were included in the research between April  2020 and Feb 2021. Of these patients, 1 319 had completed a 30-day follow-up. 

The impact of Covid-19 in cancer patients under 19 

The study findings show that in children and adolescents with cancer and Covid-19, severe and critical illness occurred in one-fifth of patients, and deaths occurred in a higher proportion than is reported in other studies on the general population under 19 years.

However, most patients recovered without the need for advanced support.

The researchers also found that most children and adolescents with cancer generally suffered mild illness during their Covid-19 infection.

About 19% developed severe or critical illness.

The outcomes of the study also show that death related to Covid-19 was low, as 50 of 1 319 patients who were part of the follow-up data died.

The authors say that this result is considerably lower than the 13–28% reported in adults with cancer, but it is disproportionately high compared with 0·01–0·70% mortality in general paediatric patients. 

The mortality rate was more than four times higher than the general child and teenage patients.

The authors say that patients receiving or expected to receive intensive cancer-directed therapies should be prioritised for early access to vaccination, when appropriate, and for other supportive care interventions.

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