Vaccine effect disappears faster for cancer patients; boosters recover it – Israeli study

Vaccine protection against COVID-19 is declining faster among cancer patients, but boosters are rapidly boosting their antibody levels, Israeli research has found.

The study supports the argument for giving cancer patients a third dose of vaccine in countries where they have received only two, according to the author Dr. Hagai Ligumsky. And it encourages the proliferation of fourth shots for this demographic in countries like Israel, which already gave third shots, he added.

The peer-reviewed study, published in The Lancet, showed that when cancer patients arrived to receive their third Pfizer shot, they had far lower antibody levels than healthy people of the same age who had received their first shot at the same time.

Cancer patients had an average of only 24 AU / ml, the standard measurement for antibodies, which stands for arbitrary units per milliliters. In contrast, healthy people had an average of 159 AU / ml.

In practical terms, this meant that the average cancer patient was only narrowly considered to be protected by their first shot, while others were still well within the positive range.

About 28.2 percent of cancer patients were considered to have lost vaccine protection due to low antibody levels, whereas this was only the case for 1.4% of healthy people.

Illustrative photo of a cancer patient receiving chemotherapy (

“These results clearly support the notion that cancer patients during active treatment see their antibodies decrease faster than others, and suggest that regular boosters make sense to them,” Ligumsky, an oncologist at Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center and one of the authors of the study, told The Times of Israel.

When study participants at Sourasky received their third dose of vaccine, both groups saw their antibodies rise rapidly – albeit more for the healthy. Cancer patients had an average of 1887 AU / ml, which is considered strong protection, one month after booster injections, while others had an average of 3370 AU / ml.

About 69 out of the 72 cancer patients were considered positive for antibodies – in other words, protected by their booster shots – and all 144 healthy people were considered protected.

Illustrative image: Antibodies attack SARS-CoV-2 (iStock via Getty Images)

Ligumsky’s team will soon test the participants again to see how their levels hold up five to six months after boosters.

He said the new study supports plans to give a fourth shot to cancer patients in Israel. Health managers initially approved such shots as part of an attempt to give the fourth dose to people over 60, health professionals and others considered at risk. But while some people are getting the fourth shot at a survey, the national rollout is currently on hold.

“From our research, we see that it is very likely that this population will need ongoing boosters to keep antibodies high,” Ligumsky said, adding that a very low incidence of side effects provides assurance that this is the right policy .

In the study, the cancer patients all had solid malignancies and most were on chemotherapy. The control group consisted of fully vaccinated healthcare professionals with no personal history of cancer, active immunosuppressive drugs, or known coronavirus infection.

With 72 cancer patients and 144 healthy people in the study, the authors acknowledged that it is a small sample, but insisted that the data is still valuable.

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