At PCF we are tracking any real-time data on COVID-19 in cancer patients that’s credible and peer-reviewed. This page will list a number of resources for patients and families and we will continue to update this page as more information becomes available.
June 8, 2020 – New study finds mortality is high in patients with cancer and COVID-19
COVID-19 hit health care systems so quickly that there was very limited information on how the virus affected cancer patients and how it might impact their care. The CCC-19 (COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium) is a group of more than 100 cancer centers and other organizations that are collecting data on patients with cancer and COVID-19. The first peer-reviewed paper from this consortium was recently published in the prestigious journal The Lancet and includes PCF-funded researchers Drs. Rana McKay and Alicia Morgans as co-authors. Based on data from more than 900 patients, the authors found the death rate was high: 13% overall, compared with a death rate of 1.4% in a general study of patients in China. 16% of patients in the CCC-19 study had prostate cancer. The authors did not report risk of death by specific cancer diagnosis, but noted that as more patients are added to the dataset, such questions may be answered. One interesting result is that major recent surgery did not increase the chance of death. The authors noted that this finding should be considered when weighing the risk of delaying elective cancer surgery – because the delay itself could pose a risk to the patient.
What this means for prostate cancer patients: Researchers are working together to quickly and accurately understand the effects of COVID-19 on cancer to help patients and their doctors make informed decisions about how best to safely proceed with treatment. As this work continues, we will likely have information specifically for prostate cancer. You can read the original study here.
May 8, 2020
Breaking News: ADT May Offer Some Protection From COVID-19 in Men with Prostate Cancer
May 7, 2020
April 8, 2020
The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has just released guidelines on caring for prostate cancer patients in light of the risk of COVID-19 infection to patients as well as new constraints on many healthcare systems.
April 3, 2020
The CDC has updated its recommendation regarding cloth face coverings. People who do not yet know they are infected may still be able spread the virus to others by exhaling tiny aerosols during prolonged close contact. Simple face coverings (NOT medical masks) may provide an additional layer of prevention. Please read the CDC’s recommendation carefully. Staying home except for essential errands and keeping at least 6 feet apart when out of your home are still vitally important actions you can take right now.
- Looking for wellness tips during this difficult time? Check out our blog on Healthy Habits in a Time of Crisis.
- We’ve gotten many questions from prostate cancer patients concerned about delays in their treatment plan due to COVID-19. Our medical writer, Janet Worthington, offers some perspective.
At PCF we are tracking any and all real-time data on COVID-19 and experimental treatment in cancer patients that’s credible and peer-reviewed. Data is coming in. Of note, not all of these clinical trials — which are going to teach us how to care for COVID-19 patients with cancer — are also going to be a breakthrough. The results of this trial showed us an approach that is not helpful to patients.
That said, some good science suggests one very good idea for prostate cancer patients with severe COVID-19 infections includes testing existing drugs used to treat other viruses and other infections. Hydroxychloroquine is an FDA-approved, inexpensive drug you can take by mouth. It has been found to affect SARS-Cov2 virus in a dish. It is now being tested in US patients with severe respiratory cases of COVID-19, including patients with cancer— and that will include prostate cancer patients at all stages of disease.
At PCF, we realize that many of you who have been affected by prostate cancer, or whose loved ones have been affected by prostate cancer, might be wondering if special precautions need to be taken with the coronavirus pandemic unfolding. We have always believed that evidence out of science and research are the best tools for solving patients’ problems, whether that’s cancer or public health emergencies. As such, we will do our best to use science to provide information and a steady hand in this tumultuous situation.
Scientists know that the coronavirus (aka COVID-19 COrona VIrus Disease 2019) can affect your immune system, although we are still learning more. Based on recent data as reported in the journal The Lancet, it appears that the virus hits the immune system early and knocks down the white blood cells that fight infections. This translates to respiratory disease for most patients who become sick with COVID-19.
The most important thing to remember, whether you have been affected by prostate cancer or not, is that if you are having symptoms as described here, such as a fever (99.1°F [37.3°C] or higher), persistent cough, or shortness of breath, you need to call your doctor.
If you are not having symptoms, it is important that you follow the guidelines to stay safe and avoid spreading the disease. It is critical that all citizens, not just those with prostate cancer, adhere to CDC and local public health guidelines (here’s an example of one source of local guidelines from the County of Los Angeles). You can view the full, trusted list of prevention tactics here, but our top three are: 1) wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap, especially after blowing your nose and before eating, 2) stay 6 feet away from people if you are out in public, and 3) keep your hands away from your face, where the virus can readily enter through your eyes, nose, and mouth.
That said, here are a few extra details for those of you in the prostate cancer journey:
- If you have been diagnosed with early-stage prostate cancer — for example, you’re on active surveillance, are receiving radiation treatment, or are scheduled for surgery — you are not at increased risk of severe disease with COVID-19. This is because early prostate cancer has not been shown to significantly affect your immune system and your ability to fight infection. Unlike some blood cancers, early prostate cancer does not affect your T cells’ and B cells’ (i.e., the cells that rule your immune system) ability to fight viral and bacterial infections normally.
- If you’re on a form of hormone therapy, there is no published evidence of increased risk of severity of Coronavirus infection. Extensive research in tens of thousands of patients on medications such as Lupron® or Zytiga® or Xtandi® shows there is no evidence that these treatments put a prostate cancer patient at higher risk of other viral infections like seasonal influenza, the common cold, or hepatitis. Experts feel the immune cells are normally functioning in normal virus infections in men on hormonal therapy for prostate cancer. Coronavirus however is not a normal virus, and if there is new data on patients on hormonal therapy with COVID-19 we are monitoring it and will share it.
- Chemotherapy treatment (such as taxotere, carboplatin, or cabazitaxel) for advanced prostate cancer could increase your risk of greater Coronavirus infection severity. PCF and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the CDC are monitoring the data on the treatment and outcomes of cancer patients with COVID-19. Because prostate cancer chemotherapy affects rapidly-dividing cells in the body — both cancerous and normal cells — your bone marrow makes fewer infection-fighting cells, leaving you at higher risk for all types of infection. You should talk to your doctor about how your particular case should be managed in your local area. If your white blood cell count is being monitored in particular during your treatment with chemotherapy, talk to your doctor before coming in for a clinic visit. You want to be assured that from getting out of your car to getting back into your car to go home, you are in a healthcare environment that is maximally prepared to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.
- Regarding the impact of COVID-19 on prostate cancer survivors, there is no data yet from China (the country where the disease has impacted the most people, and therefore where information is “leading”), but as we get it, we will share it with our community.
- Other co-existing medical conditions can increase your risk of severe disease if you are exposed to COVID-19, regardless of prostate cancer diagnosis. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Respiratory conditions (e.g., asthma, emphysema, or former heavy smoking) and conditions that affect your immune system (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease or a history of transplant) may also increase your risk.
As expert peer-reviewed data comes in to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and the American Society of Clinical Oncology on clinical trial results of anti-COVID-19 treatments in prostate cancer patients — benefits and side effects – we will share the findings here. This page will list a number of resources for patients and families and we will in real-time continue to update it as more information becomes available.
With kind regards for the health of you and your family,
Jonathan W. Simons, MD
President and CEO
Prostate Cancer Foundation
Additional COVID-19 Resources
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Dr. Jonathan Simons, PCF's CEO and Chief Medical Officer is answering questions from prostate cancer patients, on scheduled Facebook Live sessions. Submit your Coronavirus Questions...