Lung Cancer Foundation of America (LCFA) and our sister lung cancer advocacy organizations are issuing regular joint statements on coronavirus and lung cancer to help people understand what is known about the disease, find reliable sources of information, and be aware of its potential impact on vulnerable populations, including those with lung cancer.
As advocacy organizations dedicated to serving the needs of lung cancer patients, all of us are closely monitoring the latest developments related to the outbreak caused by the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the resulting disease, COVID-19. Our community needs to have access to accurate information about coronavirus and lung cancer.
May 18, 2020 Update on Coronavirus and Lung Cancer
As different states are relaxing shelter-at-home orders and businesses are planning to re-open, it is important to understand the true extent of COVID-19 infections: both active infections (patients who are currently infected) and past infections (patients who were infected in the past and have now recovered).
Currently, active infections are tested using a nasal swab test. The FDA also recently approved a rapid antigen detection test to identify actively infected cases.
Past infections are identified through serological (blood) tests that detect antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The following infographic shows the differences between the tests used for COVID-19.
However, interpreting the results of the test may be tricky. Also, the results depend on various factors:
- Patient-specific factors: Did the patient mount a robust immune response? How long do detectable antibodies last?
- Test being used: Different antibody tests may have different sensitivity and specificity. We are still learning what this means for different tests and how to interpret the results.
- What a test is measuring: Some tests measure only one type of antibody (IgG) while others measure IgM and IgG. Does this mean one test is better than the other? We still do not know.
- What the test results mean: Does a positive test result mean that a person is immune to re-infection by SARS-CoV-2? If so, for how long?
For example, Amy (in the SF Bay Area) got sick on January 23, 2020 and her antibody test from May 15, 2020 was negative. Upal (in New York City) got sick on March 14, 2020 and his antibody test from May 4, 2020 was positive. Could this be because Amy didn’t produce enough antibodies? Because the antibodies decrease with time? Because the test was not done correctly? Or could it reflect differing test sensitivity?
To answer these types of questions will take time. In case you want to learn more about the issues with interpreting test results, please read this CNN article explaining antibody testing.
In this week’s update, we present a short video (and transcript of the discussion) with Dr. Nicolas Vabret, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Hematology and Medical Oncology at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr. Vabret, a virologist/immunologist, answers important questions, such as:
- What type of an immune response does the body mount against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19?
- How can we detect if a person is infected with SARS-CoV-2 now?
- How can we detect if a person was infected with SARS-CoV-2 in the past but has now recovered?
Coronavirus and Lung Cancer Resources
- IASLC’s Guide to COVID-19 and Lung Cancer
- The National Cancer Institute has a special website for COVID-19 and emergency preparedness. Coronavirus: What People with Cancer Should Know
- We are following updates provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), check out these links.
- Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center is one of the best places to get current updates.
- Interactive map of US COVID-19 cases by state
- The One-Two Punch: Cancer And Coronavirus (an important perspective for cancer patients)
- You can find information specific to your state or city or town on your health department’s website. A list of state department of health websites can be found here.
- A list of local health department websites can be found here
- The American Medical Association is also maintaining a resource website for healthcare providers. You can find more information here
- If you cannot avoid air travel, check out this handy article on “Dirtiest Places on Airplanes: How to Avoid Germs”