The Universities of Oxford and Birmingham find that blood cancer patients are most vulnerable to COVID-19

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Research studies conducted by the Universities of Oxford and Birmingham have found that, compared to other cancers, patients with blood cancers are significantly more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more in this article!

In a newsletter published by the University of Oxford on Tuesday, August 25, the university announces that studies it was recently involved in have shown that patients with blood cancers are more vulnerable to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the newsletter, the study found that “blood cancer patients were particularly at risk with 57% higher odds of severe disease if they contract COVID-19. This was when compared to other cancer patients, such as breast cancer, which was shown to have the lowest risk overall.”

Oxford University’s newsletter also highlighted that the study showed that age was shown to play a factor in the overall outcome, with cancer patients over 80 years old having had the highest frequency of fatality. This result is in line with what the world generally knows about the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Why does this research matter?

Cancer patients are just one of many sub-groups identified earlier in the year for being at increased risk of infection of COVID-19 and of potentially suffering more serious disease consequences. This very concern led to the formation of the national UKCCMP project.

Cancer treatments must carry on even as the pandemic continues. Therefore, the study conducted by the University of Oxford and the University of Birmingham helps to give clinicians and patients important information so they can make informed decisions about that treatment. Any production of risk tables for different cancer types will allow doctors and medics to discuss the risks and benefits with patients, so they can figure out the best way to treat each patient’s cancer. This innovative study also provides an evidence base from which hospitals and other healthcare providers can design measures to ensure they maintain much needed access to life-saving treatments as safely as possible.

According to the Oxford newsletter, more than 60 cancer centres across the UK have entered their data into the UKCCMP database with detailed information on adult cancer patients who contracted the COVID-19 disease, caused by the novel coronavirus. This project was designed to help researchers and clinicians understand what groups of cancer patients are most at risk of severe COVID-19.

What do professors at the University of Oxford and the University of Birmingham have to say about the research?

Professor Rachel Kerr, study Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford, shared, “Using these new data we are working fast to identify trends and correlations, which will enable us to create a tiered risk assessment tool so we can more precisely define the risk to a given cancer patient and move away from a blanket ‘vulnerable’ policy for all cancer patients, in the event of a second wave of COVID-19.”

Dr. Lennard Lee, an Academic Clinical Lecturer at the University of Oxford, said, “For the first time, we have a comprehensive analysis to determine who is more at risk of COVID-19. It is important to note that whilst cancer patients are more vulnerable, the chance of any given patient getting infected with COVID-19 remains low. People with cancer can be reassured that everything is being done in UK cancer centres to effectively minimise the risk of infection so that life-saving treatments can continue to be given.”

University of Birmingham Professor Gary Middleton, who is also the Chair of the UK Coronavirus Center Monitoring Project, said, “Patients are turning to their oncologists and wanting to know exactly what is their risk from COVID-19. This is particularly important as the number of cases in Europe and the UK is still labile. The UKCCMP will continue to work to understand the effect of COVID-19 on cancer patients and cancer services to ensure the best possible care in the months ahead.”

Does research like this interest you?

You might want to consider a university degree from the University of Oxford in any of the following fields:

Bachelor of Science in Biology
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences
Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry
Master of Science in Chemistry

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