Importance: Cytokine storm due to COVID-19 can cause high morbidity and mortality and may be more common in patients with cancer treated with immunotherapy (IO) due to immune system activation.
Objective: To determine the association of baseline immunosuppression and/or IO-based therapies with COVID-19 severity and cytokine storm in patients with cancer.
Design, setting, and participants: This registry-based retrospective cohort study included 12 046 patients reported to the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) registry from March 2020 to May 2022. The CCC19 registry is a centralized international multi-institutional registry of patients with COVID-19 with a current or past diagnosis of cancer. Records analyzed included patients with active or previous cancer who had a laboratory-confirmed infection with SARS-CoV-2 by polymerase chain reaction and/or serologic findings.
Exposures: Immunosuppression due to therapy; systemic anticancer therapy (IO or non-IO).
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was a 5-level ordinal scale of COVID-19 severity: no complications; hospitalized without requiring oxygen; hospitalized and required oxygen; intensive care unit admission and/or mechanical ventilation; death. The secondary outcome was the occurrence of cytokine storm.
Results: The median age of the entire cohort was 65 years (interquartile range [IQR], 54-74) years and 6359 patients were female (52.8%) and 6598 (54.8%) were non-Hispanic White. A total of 599 (5.0%) patients received IO, whereas 4327 (35.9%) received non-IO systemic anticancer therapies, and 7120 (59.1%) did not receive any antineoplastic regimen within 3 months prior to COVID-19 diagnosis. Although no difference in COVID-19 severity and cytokine storm was found in the IO group compared with the untreated group in the total cohort (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 0.80; 95% CI, 0.56-1.13, and aOR, 0.89; 95% CI, 0.41-1.93, respectively), patients with baseline immunosuppression treated with IO (vs untreated) had worse COVID-19 severity and cytokine storm (aOR, 3.33; 95% CI, 1.38-8.01, and aOR, 4.41; 95% CI, 1.71-11.38, respectively). Patients with immunosuppression receiving non-IO therapies (vs untreated) also had worse COVID-19 severity (aOR, 1.79; 95% CI, 1.36-2.35) and cytokine storm (aOR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.42-3.79).
Conclusions and relevance: This cohort study found that in patients with cancer and COVID-19, administration of systemic anticancer therapies, especially IO, in the context of baseline immunosuppression was associated with severe clinical outcomes and the development of cytokine storm.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT04354701.