The National Cancer Institute is conducting a nationwide natural history study to learn how COVID-19 affects cancer patients and their treatment. Baylor College of Medicine is currently recruiting cancer patients in Houston for the study.
Researchers will collect clinical data, imaging studies and research blood specimens from participants to learn more about the risk factors for developing a serious case of COVID-19 in people who are receiving cancer treatment. They also will study how COVID-19 impacts the course of cancer treatment and outcomes.
“We are looking to see if cancer type, treatment type or demographic factors may contribute to different outcomes for COVID-19,” said Dr. Claire Hoppenot, co-principal investigator of the Baylor study site and assistant professor in gynecologic oncology at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine. “Right now, we don’t have a lot of answers about how COVID-19 will affect cancer treatment. In this study, we hope to learn what treatments are safe to give to a person with COVID-19 and what treatments may cause the infection to get worse.”
Current studies show the COVID-19 mortality rate in cancer patients is fairly high. But Hoppenot said that data could be skewed because the people with most severe COVID-19 cases are the ones who have been diagnosed and end up in the hospital. Asymptomatic people and those with less severe symptoms may not be diagnosed and included in the data.
“The goal of this study is to get a better lay of the land. The more information we have about what is happening with this disease, the better we’ll know what we need to focus on as far as interventional measures and adjustment of treatment,” Hoppenot said.
Researchers will examine patient blood samples to try to identify genetic risk factors and biomarkers for severe COVID-19. The study also will create a bank of blood samples for future research as more is learned about COVID-19.
Baylor is recruiting patients for the study at the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and Ben Taub Hospital. To participate, patients must be getting active cancer treatment within six weeks and have a positive COVID-19 test within 14 days. Participants will provide blood samples that can be collected at the time of regular blood draws taken as part of the course of cancer treatment. Researchers will also collect information on the course of disease from the patient’s medical record. Participants will be followed for two years.