A study led by Rambam Medical Center in collaboration with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology examined the immune system of cancer patients and how it copes with the coronavirus. The prevalent assessment so far has been that cancer patients are actually at increased risk of contracting the virus – but the study findings proved otherwise.
The researchers compared 2 populations: 164 cancer patients who come to the hospital for treatment, and 107 hospital workers.
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All were at the same risk, and serological tests performed on them revealed that the rate of asymptomatic infections in the 2 groups, who did not even know they had been infected and recovered, was similar.
Both among employees and among cancer patients, the rate was about 2%.
“We were surprised first of all that cancer patients, who are usually considered a risk group for many diseases, did not show that they were at high risk for corona,” said Prof. Irit Ben-Aharon, director of the oncology department at Rambam Hospital.
Prof. Yuval Shaked, head of the Integrated Center for Cancer Research at the Technion, explains: “Our hypothesis is that the different response of cancer patients to the disease is related to the fact that anti-cancer treatment changes the profile of our immune system,” Shaked explained. “This fact probably gives cancer patients relative protection from the virus.”
This hypothesis was reinforced in the study when it was found that among the workers infected, the coronavirus affected 90% of the myeloid cells, cells in the immune system that help fight the virus. In cancer patients, however, only 50% of these cells were affected by the coronavirus. [N12 News]