Cortés A, Casado JL, Longo F, Serrano JJ, Saavedra C...Vallejo A, Carrato A. Limited T cell response to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine among patients with cancer receiving different cancer treatments

Eur J Cancer. 2022

"T cell immunity after SARS-CoV-2 vaccine needs to be improved in patients with cancer" -Dr. Alfonso Cortés-


Introduction: Patients with cancer (PC) are at high risk of acquiring COVID-19 and can develop more serious complications. Deeper understanding of vaccines immunogenicity in this population is crucial for adequately planning vaccines programs. The ONCOVac study aimed to comprehensively assess the immunogenicity of mRNA-1273 vaccine in terms of humoral and cellular response.

Methods: We conducted a prospective, single-center study including patients with solid tumours treated with cyclin-dependent kinases 4 and 6 inhibitors (CDK4/6i), immunotherapy (IT) or chemotherapy (CT). Patients were enrolled previously to vaccination with mRNA-1273. We also involved health care workers (HCW) to serve as a control group. We took blood samples before first dose administration (BL), after first dose (1D), and after second dose (2D). The primary objective was to compare the rate and magnitude of T cell response after second dose whereas safety and humoral response were defined as secondary objectives. We also collected patient reported outcomes after both the first and second vaccine dose and a six-month follow-up period to diagnose incident COVID-19 cases was planned.

Results: The rate of specific anti-S serologic positivity (anti-S IgG cut-off point at 7,14 BAU/mL) was significantly higher in HCW compared to PC after 1D (100% versus 83.8%; p = 0.04), but similar after 2D (100% versus 95.8%; p = 0.5). This difference after 1D was driven by PC treated with CT (100% versus 64.5%; p = 0.001). Cellular response after 2D was significantly lower in PC than in HCW for both CD4+ (91.7% versus 59.7%; p = 0.001) and CD8+ (94.4% versus 55.6%; p < 0.001) T cells. We found a difference on pre-existing CD4+ T cell response in HCW comparing to PC (36% and 17%, p = 0.03); without difference in pre-existing CD8+ T cell response (31% and 23%, p = 0.5). After excluding patients with pre-existing T cell response, PC achieved even lower CD4+ (50.9% versus 95.5%, p < 0.001) and CD8+ (45.5% versus 95.5%, p < 0.001) T cell response compared with HCW. Regarding safety, PC reported notably more adverse events than HCW (96.6% versus 69.2%, p < 0.001).

Conclusion: We demonstrated that PC showed a similar humoral response but a lower T cell response following two doses of mRNA-1273 vaccination. Further studies are needed to complement our results and determine the implication of low T cell response on clinical protection of PC against COVID-19.

Keywords: Cellular response; Humoral response; SARS-CoV-2; Solid tumours; Vaccination.

Why do you highlight this publication?

This study showed that patients with cancer treated with chemotherapy showed lower humoral response compared to controls after one dose of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine although achieved similar levels after full vaccination. Interestingly, the specific cellular response was significantly lower in patients with cancer. This study also pointed out the importance of pre-existing, cross-reactive, T cell immunity in patients with cancer in the magnitude of the cellular response after vaccine. This cross reactivity was lower in this patients compared to controls.

Publication commented by:

Dr. Alfonso Cortés Salgado

Medical Oncology Department. Ramón y Cajal University Hospital


Immune response SARS-CoV-2 after mRNA vaccine among patients with cancer
Altmetrics, May 2022

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