SARS-CoV-2 infections in cancer outpatients—Most infected patients are asymptomatic carriers without impact on chemotherapy

Louisa Hempel, Armin Piehler, Michael W. Pfaffl, Jakob Molnar, Benedikt Kirchner, Sebastian Robert, Julia Veloso, Beate Gandorfer, Zeljka Trepotec, Stefanie Mederle, Sabine Keim, Valeria Milani, Florian Ebner, Katrin Schweneker, Bastian Fleischmann, Axel Kleespies, Josef Scheiber, Dirk Hempel, Dietmar Zehn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Oncologic patients are regarded as the population most at risk of developing a severe course of COVID-19 due to the fact that malignant diseases and chemotherapy often weaken the immune system. In the face of the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, how particular patients deal with this infection remains an important question. In the period between the 15 and 26 April 2020, a total of 1227 patients were tested in one of seven oncologic outpatient clinics for SARS-CoV-2, regardless of symptoms, employing RT-qPCR. Of 1227 patients, 78 (6.4%) were tested positive of SARS-CoV-2. Only one of the patients who tested positive developed a severe form of COVID-19 with pneumonia (CURB-65 score of 2), and two patients showed mild symptoms. Fourteen of 75 asymptomatic but positively tested patients received chemotherapy or chemo-immunotherapy according to their regular therapy algorithm (±4 weeks of SARS-CoV-2 test), and 48 of 78 (61.5%) positive-tested patients received glucocorticoids as co-medication. None of the asymptomatic infected patients showed unexpected complications due to the SARS-CoV-2 infection during the cancer treatment. These data clearly contrast the view that patients with an oncologic disease are particularly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 and suggest that compromising therapies could be continued or started despite the ongoing pandemic. Moreover the relatively low appearance of symptoms due to COVID-19 among patients on chemotherapy and other immunosuppressive co-medication like glucocorticoids indicate that suppressing the response capacity of the immune system reduces disease severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8020-8028
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Medicine
Issue number21
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020


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