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COVID-fighting antibodies last 4+ months in 87% of cancer patients: Israeli MDs

‘Reassuring’ research on those who got two vaccine shots bodes well for oncology patients now receiving boosters, say doctors from Rabin Medical Center

Nathan Jeffay is The Times of Israel's health and science correspondent

A Magen David Adom worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on August 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
A Magen David Adom worker prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Jerusalem, on August 4, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Cancer patients have been generating and maintaining high levels of antibodies from coronavirus vaccines, Israeli researchers have found.

A peer-reviewed study by doctors from Rabin Medical Center in Petah Tikva found some 87 percent of cancer patients had high antibody levels four months after vaccination.

That is a lower rate than among people with fully functioning immune systems — 100% of whom had good antibody levels — but represents a good response by cancer patients, according to the study.

“This was reassuring, in the sense that even as people are receiving cancer therapy that makes the immune system less active, there is still a good immune education that can produce antibodies,” Prof. Salomon Stemmer of the hospital’s Institute of Oncology, the study’s lead author, told The Times of Israel.

Since the study was concluded, many Israelis — some well more than four months after vaccination — have seen their antibody levels drop, in what is believed to be a sign of compromised protection. In response to this and the threat posed by the Delta variant, the government rolled out booster shots for immunocompromised Israelis and then for anybody over the age of 60.

Despite the changed situation, the study still gives cause for hope, the authors said. They suggested the fact that cancer patients responded so well to second doses indicated it was likely the benefits of booster shots will also be well-maintained.

“This study shows that cancer patients develop antibodies well after the first and second shots and it’s likely they will do so after booster shots too,” Stemmer said.

A woman during chemotherapy (nd3000 via iStock by Getty Images)

The study, published in the journal JAMA Oncology, was based on data from 95 cancer patients and 66 healthy people, all of whom received two doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

The results are believed to be hopeful for society in general, as well as for cancer patients, as cutting infections among them is thought to reduce the danger of new variants arising. New variants are thought most likely to arise in immunocompromised people who struggle to shake the virus.

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