Humoral Immune Response in Hematooncological Patients and Health Care Workers Who Received SARS-CoV-2 Vaccinations

JAMA Oncol. 2022 Jan 1;8(1):106-113. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.5437.


Importance: To our knowledge, little is known about antibody development after SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in immunocompromised individuals, such as patients with cancer.

Objective: To determine whether hematooncological patients develop anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies after vaccination.

Design, setting, and participants: This retrospective cohort study included 2 independent cohorts of patients who were treated for hematological and solid malignant tumors between October 2020 and May 2021, comprising 901 samples from 595 patients and 58 health care workers (HCWs). Serum samples were collected from patients who were treated at an academic center and a community hospital in a rural area and a control group of HCWs, all of whom received SARS-CoV-2 vaccination.

Main outcomes and measures: Total anti-SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (anti-NC) and antispike protein (anti-S) antibodies were measured retrospectively.

Results: In total, 595 patients (320 women [53.8%] and 275 men [46.2%]; median [range] age, 67 [19-96] years) and 58 HCWs (40 women [69.0%] and 18 men [31.0%]; median [range] age, 42 [24-60] years) were included. Previous SARS-CoV-2 infection was documented in 43 of 595 (7.2%), while anti-NC antibodies that suggested previous infections were observed in 49 of 573 evaluable patients (8.6%). In both cohorts, anti-S antibody levels were higher in fully vaccinated patients compared with patients who received 1 dose. After the first vaccination, patients with hematological cancer who received B cell-targeting agents had lower anti-S levels (median, 1.6 AU/mL; range: 0-17 244 AU/mL) than patients who received other therapies (median, 191.6 AU/mL; range, 0-40 000; P < .001) or patients with solid tumors (median, 246.4 AU/mL; range, 0-40 000 AU/mL; P < .001). Anti-S levels after the first vaccination differed according to ongoing antineoplastic treatment modalities, with the lowest median levels in patients who received chemotherapy alone (157.7 AU/mL; range, 0-40 000 AU/mL) or in combination with immunotherapy (118.7 AU/mL; range, 14.1-38 727 AU/mL) and the highest levels in patients with no ongoing antineoplastic treatment (median, 634.3 AU/mL; range, 0-40 000 AU/mL; P = .01). Antibody levels after full immunization were higher in HCWs (median, 2500 U/mL; range, 485-2500 U/mL) than in patients with cancer (median, 117.0 U/mL; range, 0-2500 U/mL; P < .001).

Conclusions and relevance: In this cohort study of patients with hematooncological diseases and a control group of HCWs, anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies after vaccination could be detected in patients with cancer. Lower antibody levels compared with HCWs and differences in seroconversion in specific subgroups underscore the need for further studies on SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in patients with hematooncological disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Health Personnel
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Humoral
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Vaccination


  • COVID-19 Vaccines