SARS-CoV-2 Testing in Patients With Cancer Treated at a Tertiary Care Hospital During the COVID-19 Pandemic

J Clin Oncol. 2020 Oct 20;38(30):3547-3554. doi: 10.1200/JCO.20.01442. Epub 2020 Aug 14.


Purpose: To analyze the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in patients with cancer in hospital care after implementation of institutional and governmental safety measurements.

Methods: Patients with cancer routinely tested for SARS-CoV-2 RNA by nasal swab and real-time polymerase chain reaction between March 21 and May 4, 2020, were included. The results of this cancer cohort were statistically compared with the SARS-CoV-2 prevalence in the Austrian population as determined by a representative nationwide random sample study (control cohort 1) and a cohort of patients without cancer presenting to our hospital (control cohort 2).

Results: A total of 1,688 SARS-CoV-2 tests in 1,016 consecutive patients with cancer were performed. A total of 270 of 1,016 (26.6%) of the patients were undergoing active anticancer treatment in a neoadjuvant/adjuvant and 560 of 1,016 (55.1%) in a palliative setting. A total of 53 of 1,016 (5.2%) patients self-reported symptoms potentially associated with COVID-19. In 4 of 1,016 (0.4%) patients, SARS-CoV-2 was detected. At the time of testing at our department, all four SARS-CoV-2-positive patients were asymptomatic, and two of them had recovered from symptomatic COVID-19. Viral clearance was achieved in three of the four patients 14-56 days after testing positive. The estimated odds ratio of SARS-CoV-2 prevalence between the cancer cohort and control cohort 1 was 1.013 (95% CI, 0.209 to 4.272; P = 1), and between control cohort 2 and the cancer cohort it was 18.333 (95% CI, 6.056 to 74.157).

Conclusion: Our data indicate that continuation of active anticancer therapy and follow-up visits in a large tertiary care hospital are feasible and safe after implementation of strict population-wide and institutional safety measures during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Routine SARS-CoV-2 testing of patients with cancer seems advisable to detect asymptomatic virus carriers and avoid uncontrolled viral spread.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • COVID-19
  • Cohort Studies
  • Coronavirus Infections / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / virology*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / diagnosis*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Tertiary Care Centers
  • Young Adult