Practically every aspect of modern life now is up and down by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Substantial disruptions to the day-to-day practices of caring for patients in merely a year time period has affected cancer treatment in all aspects. The Immunotherapy and COVID risk is prevalent. Throughout the outbreak, the immunotherapy community was uniquely challenged by circumstances and was facing extreme obstacles in providing essential lifesaving care to patients with cancer amidst a pandemic.
The insights from immuno-oncology have been invaluable to the response as mRNA-based vaccines with 95% protection rates against SARS-CoV-2 infection in published trials are less effective along with tumour immunotherapies.
One of the adaptive trial designs, a strength of the oncology community, is essential to conduct studies with integrity to identify potential benefits of interventions in disease as a rapidly shifting standard of care.
To the best of my observation and understanding of COVID-19, many aspects of the disease still remain mysterious as its complete genome sequence with the heterogeneity of clinical presentations, the durability of immunity, and interactions between the pathology of SARS-CoV-2 and underlying conditions, especially cancer.
Patients with cancer may be more vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2 infection and disentangling the effects of immune-modulatory therapies is challenging.
The established role of dysregulated inflammation in more severe cases of COVID-19 will be critical to understanding any potential interactions with the activities of immunotherapies for patients with cancer.
Emerging data though indicate that checkpoint inhibitors might not predispose patients with COVID-19 and cancer to worse outcomes. In this issue, further studies are needed to understand the risk-benefit calculation.
Parallels exist between elevated cytokine levels in SARS-CoV-2 and cytokine release syndrome associated with chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy,7 it is becoming clear that these are distinct conditions and management strategies will diverge in terms of cancer management by CAR t cell therapy in cases of SARS-CoV-2
Immunotherapies including interleukin-6 modulation and inhibitors of the JAK-STAT pathway are a ray of hope.
The immunotherapy community has been affected more and given rapid information during the pandemic, and the ongoing efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic with optimistic insights from immunotherapy might seem invaluable to the entire biomedical research community today, but is a ray of hope into the future.