Cancer patients should get vaccinated against COVID-19
Infection with SARS-CoV-2 is especially dangerous for people with cancer. “
” said Marie von Lilienfeld-Toal.
The internist and hematologist is a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine II at Jena University Hospital, and her “Infections in Hematology/Oncology” research group conducts research at the Institute of Natural and Biology of Leibniz Infection.
As vice president of the Working Group on Infections in Hematology and Oncology of the German Society of Hematology and Oncology (DGHO), she has been involved in the development of many guidelines on the treatment of COVID in cancer patients. since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Back in early 2021, we made recommendations for COVID vaccination in cancer patients,Ms. von Lilienfeld-Toal noted. She and an international team of researchers have now re-evaluated more than 60 studies of immune response in cancer patients to provide a comprehensive analysis of the efficacy and potential risks of vaccination in this group.
“It can be argued that vaccination is indeed effective in cancer patients.“This group of people did not participate in enrollment studies, which means that effects and risks specific to this cohort can only be evaluated retrospectively.
“Our evaluation has shown that the effectiveness of vaccination is about 80 percent. This is very good even when compared to the flu shot, where the effectiveness is generally much lower,“She explained. The mRNA vaccine was found to be the most effective. The analysis also included evaluation of the vaccine’s effectiveness against the novel omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2.
According to von Lilienfeld-Toal, the multi-dose COVID vaccine series is useful for cancer patients. “We have observed in many studies that in cancer, multiple vaccinations are also more effective against other viral infections than single vaccinations,“The immune system often fails to respond adequately to the first vaccination, with the second needed to generate a strong immune response,” she said.
The problem with cancer, she adds, is that a weakened immune system makes the disease worse and responds worse to vaccinations.
“Our observation is that a single dose of vaccine can be strongly influenced by cancer therapy,” explains the internist.
However, the success of vaccination is also highly dependent on the type of cancer treatment. A therapy that specifically targets the immune system – in the case of blood cancers, for example – leads to a significantly reduced immune response.
The review also found that antibody titers are not a good indicator of effectiveness, von Lilienfeld-Toal said. “About half of the studies we reviewed also measured the immune response of T cells, a group of immune cells that also specifically recognize antigens,“She explained.
This method is not very standardized and is not used very often. However, it shows that even without antibody formation, specialized T cells are frequently being developed to fight SARS-CoV-2.
As for the possible risks to cancer patients, research shows that vaccination brings fewer side effects than COVID disease. The risks were comparable to those of the respective groups in the average population, and a negative effect on cancer was not observed in any of the studies.
Vaccination has been associated with more pronounced radiotherapy complications in some cases. In addition, lymph nodes can swell after vaccination, sometimes leading to the mistaken belief that new cancer clusters have developed. Therefore, recent vaccination should be considered during cancer monitoring.
The systematic compilation and interpretation of many of the study results was carried out by an international team of authors, each of whom is also conducting their own study of COVID in cancer patients.