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How does the coronavirus affect people with blood cancer?

11th Nov 2020 - Rachel Kahn

We're funding vital research that will explore how different types of blood cancer might affect someone’s individual level of risk from coronavirus. This could lead to tailored advice for people with blood cancer during this pandemic.

Back in March, the UK Government and the governments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland told around two million people in the UK that they are ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’ to the coronavirus and should therefore be particularly careful to avoid it. This group includes 200,000 people living with blood cancer.

The psychological toll of coronavirus

At the time, this meant that people with blood cancer were advised to shield and not leave their homes. This had a massive impact on their mental wellbeing.

In our survey of 1,077 people with blood cancer, over half of them said they struggled with their mental health.

Does having blood cancer put you at a higher risk from the coronavirus?

Since March, people with blood cancer have been identified as being among the most at risk of developing serious complications from the coronavirus.

In August, the Lancet published a study which looked at 224 people with blood cancer who had been admitted to hospital with coronavirus. Of these, 36% of people sadly died, compared to 29% of hospital patients with other types of cancer.

Although formal shielding hasn’t been reintroduced in England during this second lockdown, people with blood cancer are still having to live with tougher restrictions on their daily lives, and we don’t know when these restrictions will ease.

What is my individual level of risk?

Blood cancer is an umbrella term for different types of cancer that can affect your blood, bone marrow or lymphatic system. Those affected are likely to have different levels of risk from coronavirus depending on the type of disease they have and what treatment they’re having.

So far, we don’t understand much about how these variables might determine their level of risk from coronavirus.

That's why...

Today, we’re announcing research we’re funding that will look into how the coronavirus affects people with blood cancer.

We'd like you to meet...

Dr Graham Collins and Dr Claire Palles

Dr Collins and Dr Palles will lead on a research project that aims to help us understand the risk of coronavirus based on the type of blood cancer someone has and the treatment they are receiving.

How will they do this?

The team will use data that has already been collected from people with blood cancer who have developed coronavirus.

As part of this, the team look at which people are more or less likely to have serious complications from the coronavirus depending on their age, gender, ethnicity, type of blood cancer and whether they had other health conditions.

A world-wide approach to research

The team will work with researchers across the globe and combine their data and insights. This collaborative approach will enable them to have the best possible understanding of which people with blood cancer are at the highest risk of serious complications from the virus.

We hope this research will give us more information on the people with blood cancer most at risk from the coronavirus. This could enable clinicians to give our community tailored advice on the extent of which they should limit social contact with others to avoid contracting the virus.

This would mean that people with blood cancer, who are at the highest risk, are aware that it’s especially important for them to avoid the coronavirus. It would also mean that people with blood cancer at a lower risk might be able to take fewer precautions.

This would also help clinicians to understand whether some treatments put people with blood cancer at a greater risk from the virus. It would also help them to find the best way to treat blood cancer during the pandemic, and could benefit people with blood cancer all around the world.

If you've got questions or concerns around your individual level of risk and what you can do to protect yourself from the coronavirus, please don't hesitate to call or email our free, confidential support team.


Research COVID-19