Coronavirus Spectrum Infections (COVID-19, MERS, SARS) in Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review of the Literature

Cancer Invest. 2020 Sep;38(8-9):436-444. doi: 10.1080/07357907.2020.1809668. Epub 2020 Oct 5.


Background: Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has spread rapidly around the world to become a global pandemic. There is limited data on the impact of COVID-19 among patients with cancer.

Methods: A systematic review was performed to determine outcomes of adult patients with cancer affected by coronavirus infections, specifically SARS, MERS, and COVID-19. Studies were independently screened by two reviewers and assessed for quality and bias. Outcomes measured included study characteristics, cancer type, phase of care at the time of diagnosis, and clinical presentation. Morbidity and mortality outcomes were analyzed to assess the severity of infection as compared to the general population.

Results: A total of 19 studies with 110 patients were included. Of these, 66.4% had COVID-19 infections, 32.7% MERS and only one patient with SARS. The majority of COVID-19 studies were based on studies in China. There was a 56.6% rate of a severe event, including ICU admission or requiring mechanical ventilation, with an overall 44.5% fatality rate.

Conclusions: Patients with cancer with coronavirus infections may be more susceptible to higher morbidity and mortality.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronavirus infections; MERS-CoV; Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus; SARS Virus; SARS-CoV-1; SARS-CoV-2; neoplasms; severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19
  • China / epidemiology
  • Coronavirus Infections / mortality*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / mortality
  • Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome / mortality