LSU Health New Orleans Newsroom

LSU Health New Orleans Helps Discover COVID Impact on Cancer Patients

elderly COVID patient in ICU

Suki Subbiah, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine, is one of the oncologist authors of a recent paper that was the first large and broad geographic study to analyze the clinical impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients with cancer. The study, published in The Lancet, reported the outcomes of more than 900 patients with cancer who also had a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis. The study also identified risk factors that contributed to more severe illness and death.

“Given the worldwide prevalence of cancer and the high transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2, an understanding of the disease course of COVID-19 and factors influencing clinical outcomes in patients with cancer is urgently needed,” notes Dr. Subbiah, who is also a member of LSU Health New Orleans’ Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center.

The de-identified data were drawn from the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium (CCC19) registry database. CCC19 was created in March 2020, to study the clinical characteristics and course of illness among patients with COVID-19 who have a current or past diagnosis of cancer.

The researchers report that 13% of the patients in the study died within 30 days of a diagnosis of COVID-19. Increasing age, male sex, former smoking, the presence of two or more other illnesses, and treatment with azithromycin and hydroxychloroquine were associated with a high risk of death. The authors caution that they “cannot formally ascertain if the combination of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin gives any clinical benefit or overall harm to patients, given the non-randomized nature of the study, and the possibility of other potential clinical imbalances.”

People with cancer are at increased risk for COVID-related death because the effects of cancer treatments, supportive medications such as steroids and the immunosuppressive properties of cancer itself can potentially compromise their immune function. As well, patients with cancer are often older and have one or more other major illnesses.

The authors conclude, “Among patients with cancer and COVID-19, 30-day all-cause mortality was high and associated with general risk factors and risk factors unique to patients with cancer. Longer follow-up is needed to better understand the effect of COVID-19 on outcomes in patients with cancer, including the ability to continue specific cancer treatments.”

The study was funded by the American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health, and Hope Foundation for Cancer Research.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________ LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans (LSU Health New Orleans) educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's health sciences university leader, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous annual economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or

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