Einstein and Montefiore researchers have previously shown that most people with cancer successfully produce antibodies following infection with the novel coronavirus. In a study published in June 2021 in Cancer Cell, the research team found that cancer patients also exhibit an immune response following COVID-19 vaccination.
Overall, 94% of 200 fully vaccinated cancer patients seroconverted—that is, they produced antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The response rate was quite high (98%) among patients with solid tumors and somewhat lower (85%) in people with hematologic (blood) malignancies. The blood-cancer patients who were undergoing treatments that can kill antibody-making B cells, such as CAR T-cell therapy, had seroconversion rates of 70%; and for blood-cancer patients who had recently received bone marrow or stem-cell transplants, the seroconversion rate was 74%.
The study’s co–senior authors were Amit Verma, M.B.B.S., director of the division of hemato-oncology at Montefiore and professor of medicine and of developmental and molecular biology at Einstein, and Balazs Halmos, M.D., M.S., director of the multidisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program at Montefiore and professor of medicine at Einstein. Drs. Verma and Halmos are both associate directors of the Albert Einstein Cancer Center. Astha Thakkar, M.D., chief hematology/oncology fellow at Montefiore, was first author of the study.