Immunotherapy Safe for Cancer Patients with COVID

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay reporter

MONDAY, July 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) – Immunotherapy of cancer patients with COVID-19 seems safe, suggests preliminary study.

Treatments activate a person’s immune system against cancer.

Researchers were wary because many complications of COVID-19 result from an overactive immune response that leads to increased production of proteins called cytokines that can cause problems such as respiratory failure.

“In patients with both COVID-19 and cancer, our team thought that immunotherapy could increase the immune system response, which may already be overactive due to COVID-19 infection,” said researcher Layne Weatherford in a press release from the University of Cincinnati. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the university.

For this ongoing study, researchers are using blood samples from cancer patients with COVID-19. They are examining how the therapy affects immune cells in patients with COVID-19, as well as patients with both COVID-19 and cancer.

Preliminary data shows that a diabetes drug, metformin, can reduce the production of cytokine proteins in patients with COVID-19.

More research is needed, but the researchers said it would be possible to treat the complications of COVID-19 with metformin or a similar drug.

Weatherford noted that cancer patients are more sensitive to COVID-19 and the serious complications it causes.

The results were due to be presented Monday at a virtual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Studies presented at meetings are generally considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

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SOURCE: University of Cincinnati, press release, July 20, 2020

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