Lung Cancer and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Infection: Identifying Important Knowledge Gaps for Investigation

Christian Rolfo, Noy Meshulami, Alessandro Russo, Florian Krammer, Adolfo García-Sastre, Philip C. Mack, Jorge E. Gomez, Nina Bhardwaj, Amin Benyounes, Rafael Sirera, Amy Moore, Nicholas Rohs, Claudia I. Henschke, David Yankelevitz, Jennifer King, Yu Shyr, Paul A. Bunn, John D. Minna, Fred R. Hirsch

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Patients with lung cancer are especially vulnerable to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) with a greater than sevenfold higher rate of becoming infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) COVID-19, a greater than threefold higher hospitalization rate with high complication rates, and an estimated case fatality rate of more than 30%. The reasons for the increased vulnerability are not known. In addition, beyond the direct impact of the pandemic on morbidity and mortality among patients with lung cancer, COVID-19, with its disruption of patient care, has also resulted in substantial impact on lung cancer screening and treatment/management.COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective in people with lung cancer. On the basis of the available data, patients with lung cancer should continue their course of cancer treatment and get vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. For unknown reasons, some patients with lung cancer mount poor antibody responses to vaccination. Thus, boosting vaccination seems urgently indicated in this subgroup of vulnerable patients with lung cancer. Nevertheless, many unanswered questions regarding vaccination in this population remain, including the magnitude, quality, and duration of antibody response and the role of innate and acquired cellular immunities for clinical protection. Additional important knowledge gaps also remain, including the following: how can we best protect patients with lung cancer from developing COVID-19, including managing care in patient with lung cancer and the home environment of patients with lung cancer; are there clinical/treatment demographics and tumor molecular demographics that affect severity of COVID-19 disease in patients with lung cancer; does anticancer treatment affect antibody production and protection; does SARS-CoV-2 infection affect the development/progression of lung cancer; and are special measures and vaccine strategies needed for patients with lung cancer as viral variants of concern emerge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-227
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022


  • COVID-19
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immunotherapy
  • Lung cancer
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Vaccine


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