How do cancer and treatments like chemotherapy, immunotherapy and radiotherapy change how the body responds to coronavirus?

COVID-19 is creating unprecedented challenges for clinicians delivering cancer care. Cancer treatments - surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy - play a crucial role in curing and controlling cancer, but we don’t know how they affect the patients’ ability to mount an immune response to the virus. Currently, many treatments are being delayed because of the potential risk.

We are using our extensive expertise in cancer immunology and infection to investigate the immune response to SARS-CoV-2 in cancer patients and untangle what is bound to be a complex relationship between the host, the cancer, the virus and the anti-cancer therapy. 

We have initiated a large prospective immune-monitoring trial with patients at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust.

In the short term we want to understand the true proportion of cancer patients that have been affected by COVID-19, including those without symptoms or who may have already recovered. 

Longer term, the study aims to determine how cancer type, disease stage, different cancer treatments, host genetics and host immune response could affect the severity of a patient’s infection and their chance of survival and the impact on their cancer.

This will help inform desperately needed clinical guidance, avoid long-term impacts on cancer patients, and help protect vulnerable people in hospitals.

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