Results from the first national study of children with cancer who test positive from COVID-19 has found that these patients do not appear to be at any increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection compared to healthy children.
Led by the University of Birmingham, the study analysed the severity of COVID-19 infection in children with cancer.
Published in the British Journal of Cancer, results found that the majority of patients either had mild infections or were asymptomatic. No patients died from COVID-19 and only 5% required intensive care support.
Launched in April, the UK Paediatric Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project was set up following a similar project in adult cancer patients coordinated from the University of Birmingham. The aim was to collect real time outcome data on all children with cancer in the UK who on admission to hospital tested positive for COVID-19 so that the severity of their illness could be collected nationally.
Designed in cooperation with the Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG), the project enabled all centres in the UK that look after children with cancer to enrol into the study.
Partner organisations involved in the oversight of the project included Public Health England, Universities of Manchester, Leeds, York, Nottingham, and their affiliated Children’s Hospitals.
The data gathered was shared with clinicians and the CCLG in real-time to inform advice on shielding in this group of patients. Due to the data produced from this study, the CCLG was able to amend the shielding advice to remove the majority of children with cancer from the group needing to shield.
Lead author, Gerard Millen, Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Fellow in the University of Birmingham’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic spread rapidly in the early part of 2020 and there were initial concerns about the severity of the infection in adults with cancer. Whilst children overall seemed to be less severely affected, little was known about the effects in children with cancer.
“The results are reassuring to parents around the country that children with cancer are at no greater risk of developing serious symptoms of COVID-19 than other children.”
“This project has been critical in allowing clinicians to analyse real-time data and provide evidence to reassure families of vulnerable children and young people with cancer that they are not at increased risk of severe COVID-19 infection.”
Ashley Gamble, Chief Executive of Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group, said:
“We’re delighted to have been able to support this vital project, which has enabled us to better understand the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people with cancer.
“This has allowed the CCLG to provide evidence-based guidance to support parents and families of children with cancer to assess their risks and make informed decisions about family life during the pandemic, including supporting children, where appropriate, to stop shielding where the risks are lower than originally thought, and return to school to minimise the impact on their education.”
The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, and its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 6,500 international students from nearly 150 countries.
Children’s Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) is a leading national charity and expert voice for all childhood cancers.
Each week in the UK and Ireland, more than 30 children are diagnosed with cancer. Our network of dedicated professional members work together in treatment, care and research to help shape a future where all children with cancer survive and live happy, healthy and independent lives.
We fund and support innovative, world-class research and collaborate, both nationally and internationally, to drive forward improvements in childhood cancer. Our award-winning information resources help lessen the anxiety, stress and loneliness commonly felt by families, giving support throughout the cancer journey.