The Omicron Covid variant continues to raise concerns about the future of the pandemic. Omicron can rapidly spread due to the nearly 40 mutations within the spike protein of the virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) quickly identified Omicron as a variant of concern due to its transmissibility, even between people who received the Covid-19 vaccine. However, studies show that receiving a booster vaccine offers better protection against severe Omicron variant symptoms.
Cancer Treatment Patients – Immunocompromised
A recent follow-up study was also conducted that evaluated the booster vaccine for cancer patients. Initially, this group of people had shown less responsiveness to the Covid-19 vaccine due to being immunocompromised. However, receiving the booster vaccine partially helps overcome these challenges, as a preprint research paper shows high neutralizing activity within these patients against the Omicron variant.
What is Immunocompromised?
A person that’s immunocompromised means that your immune system is weaker, which increases the risk of suffering from a severe bout of Covid-19. Anyone with cancer or receiving cancer treatment will have a more vulnerable immune system. Many other factors can weaken the immune system, such as stress, medications, tobacco smoking, aging, infections, autoimmune conditions, and chronic diseases.
Results of the Study
Researchers used a pseudovirus neutralization test to compare the nAb response within cancer patients against the Omicron and Delta variants, including the D614G variant, which was more prevalent during the pandemic. The results of the study showed that receiving two doses of the mRNA vaccine caused the neutralization titer against Omicron and Delta to be reduced by 21-fold and 4-fold compared to the D614G variant.
While none of the people receiving cancer treatment failed to show any detectable neutralizing titers against D614G, the response failure was more than 50% and 13% with the Omicron and Delta variants. In other words, this data shows that Omicron withstands neutralization by antibodies for cancer patients that received the double dose of the mRNA vaccines. However, the good news for immunocompromised people is that the booster vaccine increases neutralization with all variants, as the Omicron neutralization was around 5-fold less than the D614G variant. After three doses, these numbers are also similar to the Delta variant, so getting a Covid vaccine booster is essential for immunocompromised cancer patients.
There weren’t any non-responders against both Delta or D614G, while around a tenth of Omicron tests showed a failure to respond. These numbers indicate that Covid vaccines booster shots help to extend protection against Omicron variant symptoms. While some evidence indicates that immunity against Covid-19 does wane over time, there wasn’t any correlation with age. Still, the sample size was relatively small, and many of the patients were elderly.
Additional studies are needed to confirm how the booster vaccine protects people receiving cancer treatment against the Omicron variant. For example, the PD-1 protein in T cells is part of the cellular immune response to numerous antigens, including cancer cells. Once PD-1 is connected to the PD-L1 protein, it prevents T cells from eliminating cancer cells and other cells in the body.
Researchers also looked at the use of PD-1-PD-L1A blockers for cancer patients with solid tumors to understand if it was a risk factor in causing the low neutralizing response to the Covid-19 vaccine. However, there wasn’t any difference between patients who took and didn’t take these drugs, whether after the second or third Covid-19 vaccine.
What is the Impact of the Study?
The results of the Covid vaccine and cancer study show that patients who have cancer displayed a much greater neutralizing capacity against the Omicron Covid variant by receiving a booster vaccine compared to those only receiving two doses of the mRNA vaccine.
All of this data further corroborate the findings of previous studies focused on healthcare workers, which indicated the importance of receiving a booster dose in limiting an Omicron surge with cancer patients. However, the details of how everything works together are yet to be fully understood.
Clinical studies will need to be performed to further understand these findings before deciding on the amount of protection provided by receiving an immunocompromised Covid vaccine booster. For now, cancer patients can benefit from a Covid vaccine booster shot.
Keeping up with the latest news involving the Covid vaccine and cancer isn’t easy due to the ever-evolving nature of the virus. More studies are continually being conducted to understand better Covid vaccines booster shots and how they interact with Omicron variant symptoms. Learning more information is essential for anyone undergoing cancer treatment. Reaching out to your doctor can help you determine the best course of action if immunocompromised.