• By Joe Dangor

Cancer treatment may inhibit immune response to COVID-19 vaccination

January 20, 2022
a Black woman with cancer in a wheelchair, with a chemotherapy IV, and little girl hugging her, both wearing masks

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A study by researchers at Mayo Clinic Cancer Center has found that patients with cancer who receive chemotherapy ― and some targeted therapies, such as CDK4/6 inhibitors and therapies targeted at B cells ― may mount an inadequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination. The findings are published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovation, Quality & Outcomes.

"It is important for patients with cancer who are receiving chemotherapy to receive a COVID-19 vaccine," says Saranya Chumsri, M.D., a Mayo Clinic hematologist and oncologist, and author of the paper. Dr. Chumsri says this advice also applies to patients with cancer who are taking a CDK 4/6 inhibitors. These inhibitors are a newer class of medicines used to treat hormone-receptor-positive and HER2-negative breast cancers. 

Dr. Chumsri says that while CDK 4/6 inhibitors are not conventionally considered to be as immunosuppressive as chemotherapy, her research on patients with breast cancer who take these drugs found that they exhibited less optimal neutralizing antibody activity. Dr. Chumsri recommends that antibody levels be tested in these patients after vaccination, and they should consider receiving booster vaccinations for COVID-19.

Dr. Chumsri anticipates having additional data later this year regarding broader immune responses to COVID-19 vaccinations, including cellular and antibody responses in patients receiving chemotherapy and targeted therapies with booster vaccinations.

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About Mayo Clinic Cancer Center
Designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer InstituteMayo Clinic Cancer Center is defining new boundaries in possibility, focusing on patient-centered care, developing novel treatments, training future generations of cancer experts, and bringing cancer research to communities. At Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, a culture of innovation and collaboration is driving research breakthroughs that are changing approaches to cancer prevention, screening and treatment, and improving the lives of cancer survivors.

About Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization committed to innovation in clinical practice, education and research, and providing compassion, expertise and answers to everyone who needs healing. Visit the Mayo Clinic News Network for additional Mayo Clinic news. For information on COVID-19, including Mayo Clinic's Coronavirus Map tracking tool, which has 14-day forecasting on COVID-19 trends, visit the Mayo Clinic COVID-19 Resource Center

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