NCCN Guidance on Safety and Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccines for Cancer Patients

NCCN Guidance on Safety and Effectiveness of COVID-19 Vaccines for Cancer Patients from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Is the COVID-19 vaccine recommended for people living with cancer? Dr. Erin Roesch shares recommendations from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) for those undergoing cancer treatment, including guidance on mask wearing and advice for family members.

Dr. Erin Roesch is a breast medical oncologist at the Cleveland Clinic. Learn more about Dr. Roesch here.


Transcript:

Katherine: 

Many cancer patients have questions about the COVID vaccine. Is it safe? Do we need to continue wearing masks? Here to address these questions is cancer expert, Dr. Erin Roesch. Dr. Roesch, would you introduce yourself?

Dr. Roesch: 

Hello. And thank you for inviting me to participate in this very important conversation. My name is Erin Roesch. I am a breast medical oncologist at Cleveland Clinic.

Katherine: 

Excellent. Thank you so much for joining us today. I’d like to run through a list of concerns that cancer patients have about vaccines in general and the COVID vaccine specifically.

So, let’s start with a basic question. Should people get vaccinated if they have cancer?

Dr. Roesch: 

Yes. All individuals diagnosed with cancer should get the COVID-19 vaccine as recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network or NCCN.

An immunocompromised state makes many people with cancer at higher risk of serious COVID-19 illness. Those who are vaccinated are less likely to become sick with COVID-19. And, also, vaccinated people who do get COVID-19 are much less likely to become seriously ill.

I would also mention that those living in the same household as a person diagnosed with cancer and caregivers or other close contacts should also get vaccinated.

Katherine: 

Another common question is whether people with cancer should wait for any reason to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Roesch: 

Most people with cancer should get the vaccine as soon as they can with a few exceptions according to NCCN.

People in the process of receiving stem cell transplant or cellular therapy should wait at least three months after they finish treatment to get vaccinated.

Those diagnosed with certain forms of leukemia should also wait a few weeks after receiving treatment to allow their immune system to recover so the vaccine can be effective.

It’s not been clearly defined exactly how chemotherapy affects responses to COVID-19 vaccines. But some data suggests that immune responses may not be as robust. However, it is still recommended that those receiving chemotherapy and also immunotherapy and radiation should get vaccinated whenever they can.

Katherine:

I think a lot of people are concerned too about whether one vaccine is better than another. What would you say to them?

Dr. Roesch:

And that is a common question that I often get in my clinic. And I advise my patients to receive or take whatever vaccine they are offered.

We don’t really have any studies or data at this point suggesting one being better than another in cancer patients.

Katherine: 

Some people are wondering if the vaccine can give a person COVID-19. How would you address that?

Dr. Roesch: 

I would say that as none of the currently available vaccines are made with a live virus, the vaccine itself can’t give a person COVID-19. By getting vaccinated, actually, those who are immunocompromised are really helping society to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Immunocompromised people who get COVID-19 may be more likely to infect others due to prolonged shedding of the virus after infection.

Katherine:

What about side effects? Are the vaccine’s side effects worse for people with cancer?

Dr. Roesch:  

No. Side effects do not appear to be worse for those diagnosed with cancer. Results to date suggest that the vaccine’s side effects in people with and without cancer are really no different.

These side effects, as we have seen, may include arm soreness, rash, fatigue, chills, fever, headache, for example.

Katherine: 

And, finally, can cancer patients stop wearing a mask after they’ve been vaccinated?

Dr. Roesch:

Cancer patients should continue to wear a mask post-vaccination. Many people with cancer may have a harder time actually fighting infections and may not respond as well to vaccines. So, people diagnosed with cancer and their close contacts should get vaccinated and then continue to follow precautions, which include wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene.

Katherine:

Is there a certain length of time that people need to continue wearing a mask after being vaccinated?

Dr. Roesch:  

At this time, I would recommend patients continue to follow the CDC guidelines that are currently in place. And at this point, I don’t think we have a projected end time for that yet.

Katherine:    

Is there anything else you’d like to share with cancer patients who may be concerned about vaccinations?

Dr. Roesch:    

I would encourage those diagnosed with cancer to not only themselves get vaccinated but to also really voice and stress the importance of vaccination to those that surround them, including, again, members of their household, close contacts, and even beyond their inner circle.

I would also advise people to try and avoid letting the concern of possible side effects related to the shot deter them from getting it. The symptoms of COVID-19 can be much worse and potentially serious for some compared with the relatively minor side effects that we’ve seen with the vaccine itself.

I also would mention I’ve had personal patients that have expressed concern about functioning of their immune system while receiving chemotherapy and how this might affect their response to the vaccine. I do emphasize to them that even though responses might not be as strong as they may be in the absence of active treatment, I feel like the potential benefits of the vaccine still outweigh the risks in my mind.

Katherine:   

Thanks so much for joining us today, Dr. Roesch.

Dr. Roesch:

Thank you for having me.

COVID Vaccines: What Do Prostate Cancer Patients Need to Know?

COVID Vaccines: What Do Prostate Cancer Patients Need to Know? from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What do prostate cancer patients need to know about COVID-19 vaccines? Dr. Himisha Beltran shares information about safety, effectiveness, and recommendations for prostate cancer patients in active treatment. 

Dr. Himisha Beltran is Director of Translational Research in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Beltran, here.

See More From Engage Prostate Cancer

Related Resources

An Update on Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research

How to Engage in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions

What Is a Prostate Cancer Biomarker?

 


Transcript:

Katherine:

Is the COVID vaccine safe and effective for patients with prostate cancer?

Dr. Beltran:

Absolutely. There really are no contraindications to getting the COIVD vaccine, unless there is some component of the vaccine that a patient cannot tolerate. And prostate cancer patients tend to be older. They can have their lower immune system if they’re getting chemotherapy. So, they’re at higher risk for having complications from COVID itself. So, I do think that it’s something to consider. There are even patients that are undergoing active therapy. They should, I think, consider getting the vaccine.

Katherine:

How does the vaccine effect treatment?

Dr. Beltran:

There should not be any delays or changes in therapy based on getting the vaccine.

An Update on Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research

An Update on Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What’s the latest in prostate cancer treatment and research? Dr. Himisha Beltran shares developments in precision medicine and clinical trials, including how prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) imaging can help provide targeted care.

Dr. Himisha Beltran is Director of Translational Research in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Beltran, here.

See More From Engage Prostate Cancer

Related Resources

How to Engage in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions

COVID Vaccines: What Do Prostate Cancer Patients Need to Know?

What Is a Prostate Cancer Genetic Mutation?

 


Transcript:

Katherine:

Dr. Beltran, when it comes to prostate cancer research and emerging treatment options, what are you excited about specifically?

Dr. Beltran:

Well, there’s so much I’m excited about. There’s a lot happening in prostate cancer research. When it comes to precision medicine, we are still at the beginning. We are developing new trials and treatment strategies to target other mutations with drugs that have not yet been approved. We have the capability to interrogate treatment resistance, recognizing that tumors can evolve, and the technologies are such where we can start to understand why different people respond differently to the different treatments that we have, and now come in to try to prevent of bypass that treatment-resistant pathway, which is still a very new field.

I’m also very excited about even our understanding about the inherited mutations that predispose to prostate cancer because that has implications for family members, and one could envision a future where we have better detection and prevention for prostate cancer for high-risk individuals. And then, finally, one class of drugs that we didn’t talk about that is really precision medicine’s strategy is a class of drugs targeting PSMA – prostate-specific membrane antigen.

So, that is a molecular feature of the cancer. It is a protein that is expressed on the cell surface of prostate cancer. It’s not a genetic mutation that we test through genetic sequencing, but we have something called PSMA imaging where we can do molecular imaging to figure out if the prostate cancer expresses this protein. And there are a number of drug approaches that are coming in to target this very specific protein on the cell surface.

And so, I’m very excited about that. I do think that does represent precision medicine, and these are treatments in clinical trials that we’ll hear much more about later this year. And so, I think in general, as we start thinking about how we start treating prostate cancers, we’re moving beyond, “Treat everyone the same,” and really trying to figure out, “Can we really understand, who are the patients? And develop strategies that are more specific for that individual.”

How to Engage in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions

How to Engage in Your Prostate Cancer Treatment Decisions from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

What factors are important to consider when deciding on a prostate cancer treatment approach? Dr. Himisha Beltran reviews key considerations and highlights the important role patients play in their care.

Dr. Himisha Beltran is Director of Translational Research in the Department of Medical Oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Learn more about Dr. Beltran, here.

See More From Engage Prostate Cancer

Related Resources

An Update on Prostate Cancer Treatment and Research

COVID Vaccines: What Do Prostate Cancer Patients Need to Know?

How Do Genetic Mutations Impact Prostate Cancer Treatment Options?

 


Transcript:

Katherine:

What are the considerations when choosing treatment for prostate cancer?

Dr. Beltran:

Yeah, so there are many considerations when thinking about a therapy choice for a patient with prostate cancer. Oftentimes, we use clinical features, radiology, blood tests, and now molecular features incorporating into that to really guide care based on how indolent or aggressive the cancer is. There are some cancers that don’t need to be treated that we follow on active surveillance. There are different states where we may do intermittent treatment, weighing the risks and benefits of the therapy.

And then, in the more advanced setting where you need continuous treatment – and there is now many choices of different drugs that are approved for prostate cancer – we often make these choices with our patients based on not just the trajectory of the cancer but also weighing the side effects and quality of life and other issues for those different treatment modalities. And I see precision medicine as providing one extra layer of information to help guide those conversations.

Katherine:

What’s the patient’s role in making treatment decisions?

Dr. Beltran:

The patient is the center. It’s really our role to help inform and partner with them because now we have a lot of choice. And one choice might not be the same for each individual. And so, we use clinical features and features of the cancer, but the other features factor, such as quality of life. It factors cost considerations – the logistics of it all. These can vary across the different treatments. And so, it really requires really going through everything with the patient. And the patient really does have a voice and really should be the center of that treatment decision.

Prostate cancer treatment is complex, and sometimes there are questions there are questions that a patient might have that their physician did not answer adequately. And they really should speak up because it’s important to know what all the options are. There are even things like the DNA sequencing. It can be difficult to interpret. And you may not know what available treatments are there unless you ask the questions.