Nine out of ten oncology patients develop high antibody levels after receiving COVID vaccines, Israeli researchers have found, calming fears that people battling cancer will have dramatically lower protection.
Doctors at Beilinson Hospital in Petah Tikva monitored 102 cancer patients after inoculation with two shots of the Pfizer vaccine, for a study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Oncology. Only 10 failed to generate an antibody response.
“We found that there is a sufficiently high level of antibodies to provide full protection for 90 percent of oncology patients undergoing active anti-cancer treatment,” said Prof. Salomon Stemmer, director of oncology research at Beilinson. “This is exciting news, with potential for tremendous impact.”
He told The Times of Israel: “The results are very important because they allow patients to feel good and feel confident, and continue their regular lives. During the pandemic, many cancer patients stayed at home and were even afraid to go to clinics, so this is very significant.”
He acknowledged that the rate of cancer patients developing antibodies was lower than among a healthy control group of 78 people, all of whom mounted antibody responses. He also admitted that the amount of antibodies was significantly lower.
Still, he insisted the results were impressive. “Despite the antibody levels of cancer patients being lower than others, they are still 20 times above the point that makes you considered positive for antibodies,” he said.
Stemmer conducted the study at Beilinson’s Davidoff Cancer Center. It involved checking antibody levels of patients across a range of ages who were undergoing treatment for various cancers.
He said Israel’s high vaccination rate gave him access to large numbers of vaccinated cancer patients. “The fact that Israel is at the forefront of the global battle against COVID-19, holding the highest rate of vaccinated citizens, gave us the ability to not only fight the pandemic but also gather much knowledge about the vaccine,” he stated.
Stemmer stressed that the study is ongoing, and continues to monitor the cancer patients in case their antibody levels show any unusual drops — in which case he may recommend a third “booster” dose of the vaccine for those fighting cancer.