A magazine for friends of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University.

Vaccine Doesn’t Shield Some Cancer Patients


Study of vaccinated cancer patients with breakthrough COVID-19 shows 13% mortality rate.

Vaccinated patients with cancer who had breakthrough COVID-19 infections still have a high risk of hospitalization and death.

A study in Annals of Oncology found a hospitalization rate of 65 percent, an ICU or mechanical ventilation rate of 19 percent, and a 13 percent death rate. Data were collected before the CDC recommended COVID boosters for people with cancer.

The study was conducted by the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium, a group of 129 research centers, including the Lifespan Cancer Institute and Brown, and was published during the omicron surge.

“The immunosuppressed and their close contacts should be target groups for therapeutic and preventive interventions, including community-level outreach and educational efforts,” says Associate Professor of Medicine Dimitrios Farmakiotis, MD, a senior author of the study. Similar high COVID-19 mortality rates were reported in other immunocompromised populations, such as organ transplant recipients, prior to booster authorization.

“Because measures of immunity are not routinely collected in clinical care, we don’t know whether these were patients who mounted effective immune responses after vaccination,” says Jeremy Warner, MD, MS, of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and another senior author on the paper. “A lot of emerging data have suggested that patients with cancer, especially blood cancers, don’t mount adequate protective antibody responses.

“It’s important to note that many of the same factors that we identified prior to the availability of vaccination—age, comorbidities, performance status, and progressing cancer—still seem to drive many of the bad outcomes,” Warner says.


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