A study of more than 500 patients with cancer infected with COVID-19 at a large cancer center in Boston found that Black patients with cancer and COVID-19 were twice as likely to be hospitalized due to complications related to the virus as compared to White patients. Black patients were also more likely to visit the emergency room. The findings will be presented by Pandya et al at the upcoming virtual 2020 ASCO Quality Care Symposium (Abstract 122).
“In light of these findings, Black patients with cancer should exercise more caution and consistently use strategies to prevent COVID-19 infection,” said Chintan Pandya, MD, PhD, who led the study while working at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and is now an assistant scientist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “When a vaccine for COVID-19 is available, it should be offered to high-risk patients first. For now, though, preventive measures are the most effective tool.”
Study Methods and Findings
In this retrospective observational quality of care study, researchers examined electronic medical records for 557 patients with cancer who tested positive for COVID-19 between March 1 and June 10, 2020, and had at least one visit in the past year to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Demographics, noncancer comorbidities, cancer type, and treatment were captured from electronic health records. Hospitalization and emergency room visits were assessed from the time of laboratory confirmation of a COVID-19 diagnosis up to 30 days later.
While 14% (79) of the patients included in the analysis were Black, these patients accounted for 19% (18) of hospitalizations and 27% (15) of emergency room visits due to COVID-19. After controlling for demographics, comorbidities, and cancer variables, Black race was independently associated with a more than twofold higher risk of hospitalization when compared with White race.
The results are consistent with previous reports that minority populations in the United States experience greater illness severity and health consequences from COVID-19. However, similar data for patients with a cancer diagnosis is limited.
The researchers plan to compare patients with cancer who tested negative for COVID-19 with those who tested positive to further explore differences related to race.
This was a single-institution study, and additional research is needed to determine whether these results are generalizable beyond the population studied.
The study authors concluded, “In a large cohort of patients with cancer who tested positive for COVID-19, while 14% were Black, they contributed to 17% [of] hospitalizations and 26% [of] emergency department visits associated with COVID-19. Black race was independently associated with higher odds of hospitalization due to COVID-19 than White race, after adjusting for confounding factors.”
Disclosure: For full disclosures of the study authors, visit coi.asco.org.