94% of cancer patients respond well to COVID-19 vaccine in UT Health San Antonio study

High-risk cancer patients produced no COVID antibodies

Medical staff prepare the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for local residents over 40 years old at a vaccination center Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in the Sumida ward of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
Medical staff prepare the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for local residents over 40 years old at a vaccination center Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in the Sumida ward of Tokyo. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SAN ANTONIO – A new U.S. and Swiss study produced by UT Health San Antonio showed nearly all cancer patients developed a good immune response to COVID-19 three to four weeks after receiving their second vaccination.

Doctors said of the 131 patients studied, 94% developed antibodies, and seven high-risk patients did not.

Dr. Dimpy P. Shah, corresponding author of the study and doctor at the Mays Cancer Center, said the study raises concerns about protecting high-risk patients.

“That has implications for the future. Should we provide a third dose of vaccine after cancer therapy has completed in certain high-risk patients?” questioned Shah.

The study showed that those with hematological cancers, such as Myeloma and Hodgkin Lymphoma, were less likely to respond to the vaccine than patients with solid tumors.

Doctors said high-risk groups receiving the antibody therapy Rituximab within six months of the vaccine developed no COVID-19 antibodies.

Chemotherapy patients developed antibodies, but it did not compare to the general population’s antibody response. Shaw said doctors are not sure how that will relate to future COVID-19 protection.

The study showed that 80% of patients were non-Hispanic white, 18% Hispanic, and 2% Black. Doctors said they recommend future studies be done in Black, Asian and Hispanic patients to see if there is a difference in vaccination immune response.

The study did not examine the Delta variant or any other mutants, and researchers did not study how T cells and B cells responded to infection fighting.

Health officials said they observed a big difference in the antibody response from patients who received two vaccines rather than one.

Doctors said patients with high-risk cancers should still take precautions even after being vaccinated.

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About the Author:

Emily Martin is a digital producer trainee at KSAT. She earned a journalism degree from Texas State University, where she was news director at KTSW, the campus radio station. She has also interned at KXAN and KUT in Austin.