Findings from a new study led by researchers at Henry Ford Cancer Institute in Detroit, in collaboration with Advocate Aurora Health, the Food and Drug Administration, and Pennsylvania-based Syapse, show an elevated risk for severe COVID-19 effects or deaths among patients with cancer, with the highest risk being among low-income and Black patients.
The analyzed data was part of the Syapse Learning Health Network, which is a global precision oncology data sharing platform that seeks to improve cancer care across communities by using real-world data to support clinical decisions.
The study was published in Cancer Reports and analyzed data from 146,702 adults diagnosed with cancer between 2015 and 2020. Between February 1 and July 30, 2020, 1,267 COVID-19 cases were identified from this group.
Patients with median household incomes below $30,000 were twice as likely to be hospitalized, and Black patients were more likely than any other group to be admitted. Black patients with cancer and, separately, those living in zip codes with median household income less than $30,000 were at the highest risk of severe COVID-19 effects or death.
“The data analyzed demonstrates health disparities related to both race and income that are multi-factorial and already well-recognized in the U.S.,” says Dr. Clara Hwang, medical oncologist at Henry Ford Cancer Institute and principal investigator of the study at Henry Ford.
“Our hope is these findings will help inform the care provided for those who are at a higher risk of complications or death from COVID-19, and lead to continued research that will help us better understand why this disproportionate effect on Black patients exists.”
Advanced safety measure were implemented at Henry Ford for patients with cancer and other high-risk conditions, such as being prioritized for the vaccine, phone screenings, and blood work being done in the infusion room so patients didn’t need to travel to a separate lab.
“The findings from this study show that patients with cancer are more vulnerable to the effects of COVID-19, especially those with comorbidities and cancer that has been diagnosed in the past 12 months,” says Dr. Shirish Gadgeel, division head of hematology/oncology at Henry Ford Cancer Institute, and co-author of the study.
Through the partnership between Henry Ford and Syapse, the health system shares deidentified cancer outcomes data with other health systems through the Syapse Learning Health Network, which enables more rapid learning from real-world experience to improve patient care around the globe.