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Cancer treatments affect consumers' immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine, study finds

Experts say consumers undergoing chemotherapy should be aware of the potential health risks

COVID-19 concept with cancer patient and doctor
Photo (c) FatCamera - Getty Images
A new study conducted by researchers from the Mayo Clinic explored some of the health risks that cancer patients face when receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to their findings, certain cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, CDK 4/6 inhibitors, and treatments targeted at B cells, may weaken the immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine and increase the risk of infection. 

“It is important for patients with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy to receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” said researcher Dr. Saranya Chumsri.  

Paying attention to antibody levels

The researchers analyzed the antibody response of over 200 cancer patients after they received each dose of one of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. The study focused on patients receiving chemotherapy, CDK 4/6 inhibitors, and treatments that targeted B cells. 

The study showed that chemotherapy posed a significant risk to the patients’ immune response to the COVID-19 vaccine. Patients receiving CDK 4/6 inhibitors, which typically aren’t supposed to be as aggressive on the immune system as chemotherapy, experienced similar results. 

The researchers learned that despite receiving both rounds of the mRNA vaccine, many of the patients struggled to produce adequate levels of antibodies that would protect them from the virus. Two fully vaccinated participants also tested positive for COVID-19 throughout the study. 

Moving forward, the researchers hope more health care providers are closely monitoring their cancer patients’ antibody levels. This can help identify patients who may have a higher risk of infection, as well as those who may be ideal candidates for a booster shot. 

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