Cancer immunotherapy does not interfere with COVID-19 immunity in vaccinated patients, study shows

Research findings published in Frontiers in Immunology show that cancer immunotherapy does not interfere with COVID-19 immunity in previously vaccinated patients. These findings support recommending the vaccine for patients with cancer, including those receiving systemic therapies, say the Saint Louis University scientists.

Immunotherapy is a treatment strategy that boosts the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells. In this novel study, led by Ryan Teague, Ph.D., professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine, the Teague lab studied T cell responses and antibody responses against the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in the vaccine. Unvaccinated patients receiving immunotherapy.

Their research found data supporting the clinical safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine in patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors, a class of immunotherapy drugs.

It was thought that patients who were recently vaccinated or exposed to COVID-19 may have increased inflammatory responses after immune checkpoint blockade treatment. The study found that immunotherapy did not boost the immune response against COVID-19 in vaccinated patients, supporting the safety of receiving immune checkpoint inhibitors and vaccines simultaneously.”

Ryan Teague, Ph.D., professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Saint Louis University School of Medicine.

Teague notes that several timely factors came together to enable this research. In July 2022, the Teague lab published a study in cancer immunology immunotherapy using a new technique known as single-cell RNA sequencing, which allows researchers to study genetic information at the individual cell level to identify biomarkers to identify immune responses after cancer treatment. predicts better patient outcomes.

After collecting blood from more than 100 patients with cancer during the COVID-19 pandemic, Teague recognized the benefits of this collection as an opportunity to improve our understanding of patients’ immune responses to vaccines.

“The COVID paper comes from a unique window of time where we had an epidemic, and we had this valuable collection of patient samples that we could use to ask this timely question,” Teague said.

Additional authors include graduate students Alexander Pinning, Emily Ebert, Nilofer Khojandi, and Alice Alspach, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at SLU’s School of Medicine.

This work was supported by grant number NIH NCI R01 CA238705 from the National Institutes of Health.


Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Journal Reference:

Piening, A., et al. (2022) Immune response to SARS-CoV-2 in vaccinated patients receiving checkpoint blockade immunotherapy for cancer. Frontiers in Immunology.

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