“Many COVID-19 complications result from an overactive immune response, leading to an increased production of proteins called cytokines,” Weatherford says. “Increased production of these proteins can cause issues like respiratory failure. Patients with cancer are more susceptible to COVID-19 infection as well as severe complications from it.
“Many patients with cancer are treated with immunotherapy, which activates the immune system against cancer to destroy it. In patients with both COVID-19 and cancer, our team thought that immunotherapy might increase the immune system response, which could already be overactive because of the COVID-19 infection.”
Wise-Draper says researchers thought treating COVID-19 patients with cancer immunotherapy might result in worsening patients’ health and overall outcomes.
“We are continuing to investigate whether immunotherapy causes an increased production of these proteins by immune cells from COVID-19 patients, but our initial findings are showing that immunotherapy is not significantly impacting it,” she adds.