A Quantitative Framework for Modeling COVID-19 Risk During Adjuvant Therapy Using Published Randomized Trials of Glioblastoma in the Elderly

Neuro Oncol. 2020 Apr 27;22(7):918-927. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noaa111. Online ahead of print.


Background: During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, contact with the healthcare system for cancer treatment can increase risk of infection and associated mortality. Treatment recommendations must consider this risk for elderly and vulnerable cancer patients. We re-analyzed trials in elderly glioblastoma (GBM) patients, incorporating COVID-19 risk, in order to provide a quantitative framework for comparing different radiation (RT) fractionation schedules on patient outcomes.

Methods: We extracted individual patient-level data (IPLD) for 1,321 patients from Kaplan-Meier curves from five randomized trials on treatment of elderly GBM patients including available subanalyses based on MGMT methylation status. We simulated trial data with incorporation of COVID-19 associated mortality risk in several scenarios (low, medium, and high infection and mortality risks). Median overall survival and hazard ratios were calculated for each simulation replicate.

Results: Our simulations reveal how COVID-19-associated risks affect survival under different treatment regimens. Hypofractionated RT with concurrent and adjuvant temozolomide (TMZ) demonstrated the best outcomes in low and medium risk scenarios. In frail elderly patients, shorter courses of RT are preferable. In patients with methylated MGMT receiving single modality treatment, TMZ-alone treatment approaches may be an option in settings with high COVID-19-associated risk.

Conclusions: Incorporation of COVID-19-associated risk models into analysis of randomized trials can help guide clinical decisions during this pandemic. In elderly GBM patients, our results support prioritization of hypofractionated RT and highlight the utility of MGMT methylation status in decision-making in pandemic scenarios. Our quantitative framework can serve as a model for assessing COVID-19 risk associated with treatment across neuro-oncology.

Keywords: COVID-19; Glioblastoma; elderly; randomized controlled trials.