COVID-19 survival has improved for European cancer patients

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European cancer patients who get sick with COVID-19 are much more likely to survive now than they were earlier in the pandemic, researchers found.

They reviewed the outcomes of more than 2,600 cancer patients with coronavirus infections treated in six countries between February 2020 and February 2021 to calculate death rates within the first two weeks after diagnosis. “The initial studies on the topic documented a mortality rate ranging from 30% to 40%… in patients with cancer,” said Dr. David James Pinato of Imperial College London. “Our study suggests that over the course of the pandemic the mortality has gradually reduced, even before vaccines were implemented, reducing to a figure that was as low as 12.5% during the so called ‘second wave’ in Europe.”

Cancer patients diagnosed earlier in the pandemic also had more COVID-19 complications, his team reported in JAMA Oncology.

The researchers believe the improved survival is related not only to better treatments but also to better availability of COVID-19 tests that allow for earlier diagnosis. These factors “have been key in improving overall outcome,” Pinato said.

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