What is it about?

Immune-checkpoint blockade (ICB) is a type of therapy in which molecules that block immune pathways are used to target certain cells in the body. This therapy is commonly used to treat cancer. Moreover, studies have shown that ICB therapy can fight against viral infections too. However, its effects on COVID-19 are unclear. On one hand, there is some evidence that patients undergoing ICB therapy may have a lower risk of COVID-19. On the other hand, the immune response due to ICB may make inflammations worse in patients with severe COVID-19. This raises the question: Is ICB therapy detrimental or beneficial to patients with COVID-19? To find out, researchers analyzed clinical data from various studies. These studies looked at the relationship between ICB therapy and its impact on the course of COVID-19. After reviewing the data, the researchers concluded that ICB therapy did not increase the rate of death rates or complications due to COVID-19 in patients with cancer.

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Why is it important?

In the early days of the pandemic, there was an inclination to discontinue treatments including ICB therapy. Such a step may have increased the disease severity in patients who had been responding to these therapies. But in this study, researchers recommend that ICB therapy can be used to treat cancer patients with COVID-19. This can be a lifesaver for a lot of these patients. Moreover, there have been several studies on this topic conducted in a short time since the pandemic began. This article summarizes the key findings on all these studies to conclude that ICB is not harmful to patients with COVID-19. KEY TAKEAWAY: While ICB therapy may have the ability to improve or worsen the course of COVID-19, current evidence suggests that it does not worsen outcomes in COVID-19. As we enter a new phase of the pandemic, ICB therapy can be used to treat patients with various cancers who have COVID-19.

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: At the Crossroads: COVID-19 and Immune-Checkpoint Blockade for Cancer, Cancer Immunology Research, January 2021, American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), DOI: 10.1158/2326-6066.cir-21-0008.
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