Medical Technology

COVID-19 May Promote Tumor Development in Patients With Cancer

This summary covers the study that was published on It is not peer-reviewed.

Key Takeaway

  • Cancer patients who are exposed to SARS-CoV-2 infection experience persistent increases in cytokines, chemical mediators and (angiogenic) growth factors (CCGs) in addition to those found in patients who are not exposed as evidenced by an Belgian analysis of serial blood samples.

Why it is it important?

  • CCGs have been demonstrated to play a major role in the progression of solid and hematologic carcinomas. This includes the proliferation and survival, as well as angiogenesis and metastasis.

  • The findings of the present study could be the reason for the worse outcomes for patients suffering from cancer that is affected by SARS-CoV-2 particularly those suffering from hematologic malignancies, and suggest that there is a need for greater surveillance of patients as part of the ongoing surveillance of COVID-19.

Study Design

  • Patients with cancer in ambulatory units were referred to routine blood tests as part of the COVID-19 pandemic. The patients, which included 52 people who were exposed and 54 who were notexposed, were compared with 15 exposed and 42 unexposed healthcare workers in the oncology units.

  • All participants took part in series of CCG immunoassays using whole blood samples, with healthcare workers assessed at baseline and at intervals of 1, 2, and 3 months. Clinical data including peak severity of disease on the World Health Organization COVID-19 ordinal scale, was gathered.

  • Patients were classified into solid (n = 36 for exposed, n = 32 for unexposed) and hematologic (n = 16 for exposed and n = 22 for unexposed) cancers. Changes in CCG concentrations over time were assessed.

Key Results

  • Cancer patients who were exposed to radiation were found to have increased levels of 35 CCGs when compared with unexposed healthcare workers with no significant differences between patients with solid and hematologic cancers.

  • among the 19 CCGs which are common to both types of cancer were cytokines such as IL-6, TNF alpha, IL-1Ra , and IL-17A. There were also cytokines that are not well-known or chemokines such as Fractalkine and Tie-2.

  • Seven CCGs of cancer patients exposed to radiation discovered to be significantly altered when compared with healthcare workers. These factors, including TNF-alpha and IFN-beta and TSLP and sVCAM-1 that were elevated in patients suffering from Hematologic tumors, are believed to be tumor-promoting.

  • Longitudinal analysis over 3 months revealed that CCGs such as TNF alpha MCP-3, IL-2, and TNF-alpha were elevated in cancer patients, but not in healthcare professionals. During follow-up, patients with Hematologic malignancies saw their levels of MCP-3 or IL-2 temporarily increase.


  • The authors point out several limitations of the study, such as that it is a case control study and prospective studies of cancer patients were not feasible.

  • As well as the imbalance in the baseline characteristics of cancer patients and healthcare professionals They also point out that patients who had cancer who were transferred immediately to COVID-19 wards weren’t included.

Study Disclosures

  • The study was funded by Kom Op Tegen Kanker grant as well as the UZA Foundation grant, and University of Antwerp grants. GOA supplied the laboratory Reagents. Individually, authors were financed by COMBACTE and H2020-Orchestra. FWO also supported them.

  • No relevant financial relationships declared.

This is a summary of a preprint research article, “Blood cytokine analyses suggest that patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection create an environment that promotes tumours for a long time.” The study was conducted by Samir Kumar Singh-Singh MD PhD from the Laboratory of Cell Biology & Histology, University of Antwerp. It was published on on October 29 and provided to you by Medscape. This study has not been peer examined. The complete text is available at

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