DEC 14, 2020 10:35 AM PST

Children with cancer face no higher risk of infection from COVID-19

Relieving news from a University of Birmingham study reports that children with cancer who test positive for COVID-19 do not seem to have an increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection compared to healthy children. The results from this national study, which is the first of its kind, was published recently in the British Journal of Cancer.

The study took data from the UK Paediatric Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project which was initiated in April as the pandemic took hold of the world. The UK program collected outcome data on all children with cancer who upon admission to the hospital tested positive for COVID-19. In collaboration with the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) and children's hospitals around the UK, the study found that the majority of patients had either mild infections or were asymptomatic. Furthermore, there were no pediatric patient deaths seen from the virus, and only 5% required intensive care support.

Although children with cancer are often immunocompromised, the study’s evidence-based findings suggest that families need not worry extra about their children who have cancer. The study’s findings are based on data from 54 cases that were identified from March to July, 15 (28%) of which were identified as asymptomatic, 34 (63%) of which had mild infections, and 5 (10%) of which had moderate, severe or critical infections.

Lead author Gerard Millen commented: "The COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly in the early part of 2020 and there were initial concerns about the severity of the infection in adults with cancer. Whilst children overall seemed to be less severely affected, little was known about the effects in children with cancer. The results are reassuring to parents around the country that children with cancer are at no greater risk of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19 than other children." Millen is a Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Fellow at the University of Birmingham's Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit.

Senior author and pediatric oncologist, Professor Pam Kearns, added: "This project has been critical in allowing clinicians to analyze real-time data and provide evidence to reassure families of vulnerable children and young people with cancer that they are not at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection."

Sources: British Journal of Cancer, Eureka Alert

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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