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Study co-authored by UT Health SA researcher looks at treatments for cancer patients with COVID-19

Patients treated with remdesivir only ones who had lower mortality rates

SAN ANTONIO – A new study, co-authored by a researcher from UT Health San Antonio, found that cancer patients with COVID-19 who were treated with the anti-viral medication remdesivir had lower mortality rates than those who weren’t.

The observational study of 2,186 cancer patients with COVID-19 was published Wednesday in the journal Cancer Discovery. The study used data from the COVID-19 and Cancer Consortium, of which the Mays Cancer Center, home of the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, is a part.

According to a news release from UT Health San Antonio about the study, the mortality rate of the patients in the study -- 16% -- is triple the global average. A working draft of the study provided to KSAT before the publication, though, showed a 30-day mortality rate of 15% while the overall mortality rate was 16%.

Dr. Dimpy Shah, a researcher at the Mays Cancer Center and co-author of the study, said that while patients treated with drugs like hydroxychloroquine and corticosteroids did not have lower mortality rates, those treated with anti-viral medication remdesivir did. However, because of the small sample size, 156 patients, it was not considered statistically significant.

“It doesn’t really discount the results because we do see trend in the same direction that is being shown by other studies,” Shah said of the remdesivir results.

According to the study, Black patients were about half as likely to receive the drug than white patients. Shah says access to care may have played a role in that.

“A lot of this data also comes from academy cancer centers and not so much from the community health centers, where Black patients are more likely to go,” she said. “And that is where clinical trials are not happening at the same rate as, you know, more premier academic centers.”

Hydroxychloroquine, along with any other drug, was associated with increased mortality. However, hydroxychloroquine on its own, did not have that association.


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