Study of the SARS-CoV-2-specific immune T-cell responses in COVID-19-positive cancer patients

Eur J Cancer. 2021 Jun:150:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2021.03.033. Epub 2021 Mar 26.


Background: Cancer patients are considered highly vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, delaying cancer-specific therapies could have a deleterious effect on survival. The potential suppressive effects of chemotherapies or cancer-related microenvironment raised the question on how cancer patients' immune system responds to SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Methods: We have started a prospective monocentric trial entitled COV-CREM (NCT04365322) in April 2020. The primary objective of the trial was to assess specific immune response's intensity and diversity to SARS-CoV-2 in infected patients.

Results: In this study, we showed that cancer patients (28 solid tumours, 11 haematological malignancies) exposed to SARS-CoV-2 produced a high rate of specific antibodies, as observed in patients without a cancer history (n = 29). However, our results highlight a lack in the generation of T-cell responses against CoV-N, M and S proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus, suggesting that cancer patients failed to mount a protective T-cell immunity. Nevertheless, SARS-CoV-2 infection did not impair established immune memory since specific responses against common viruses were not hampered in cancer patients.

Conclusion: Given the severity and the unknown evolution of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is of fundamental importance to integrate cancer patients in vaccination programs.

Keywords: Cancer patients; Immune T cell response; SARS-CoV-2 antibodies; SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Viral / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral