Patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) may have a 3-fold higher risk of death if they develop COVID-19, according to a study presented in a poster at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) Annual Meeting.

The study began with 80,160 patients from the National Cancer Database who received treatment for NSCLC in 2020. In this cohort, 37,453 patients (46.7%) were tested for COVID-19. 

A total of 525 patients (1.5%) tested positive for COVID-19 during NSCLC treatment. By treatment type, the rate of COVID-19 positivity ranged from 0.9% in patients who underwent surgery to 1.6% in patients who received radiotherapy.

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For all patients, the 90-day mortality rate was 11.6%. The mortality rate was 29.9% in patients who tested positive for COVID-19 and 11.3% in patients who tested negative (P <.0001). 

In an adjusted analysis, the risk of death was more than 3-fold higher in patients with  COVID-19 (odds ratio, 3.13; 95% CI, 2.51-3.90; P <.0001). The increased risk of death was observed across treatment types.

The researchers concluded that developing COVID-19 during NSCLC treatment was “extremely dangerous across all modalities, more than tripling the risk of treatment-associated mortality.” 


Zhan P, Canavan ME, Udelsman B, et al. Risk of COVID-19 infection during lung cancer treatment in the first year of the pandemic in the US. AATS 2023. May 6-9, 2023. Abstract PS63.