The following article features coverage from the European Hematology Association (EHA) 2021 Virtual Congress. Click here to read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor‘s conference coverage.

The mortality rate of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) who become infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may be greater than 1 in 20, according to research presented at the European Hematology Association (EHA) 2021 Virtual Congress.

The spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 infection, spread from China to Italy in late 2019, with lockdowns first initiated in early March 2020. While mortality data have been evaluated for a number of sub-populations, there has been limited information about the effects of COVID-19 infection in patients with CML.

In a retrospective analysis, researchers evaluated the effect of COVID-19 infection on patients with CML in Italy. The study evaluated the characteristics and outcomes of patients who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, with 3 survey phases launched between 2020 and 2021.

Continue Reading

Overall, data from 8665 patients with CML who were treated in 46 centers throughout Italy were included. The COVID-19 positivity rate was 2.5%, with 57% of the diagnoses recorded between September 2020 and January 2021. Patients between 50 and 65 years old were the most likely (35%) to be diagnosed with COVID-19, while 11% of diagnosed patients were older than 75 years.

The majority of COVID-19 diagnoses were, furthermore, among males (73%), and 11% of patients were not receiving treatment for CML, which accorded with the 11% of patients who were in treatment-free remission. Seventy-four percent of patients were in molecular remission at the time of diagnosis.

When diagnosed, 20% of patients were asymptomatic. Symptomatic patients presented with fever and respiratory symptoms (28%), cough (13%), isolated fever (10%), ageusia (13%), and anosmia (12%).

Among patients who were diagnosed with COVID-19, 23% discontinued tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy, 9.6% were hospitalized without a need for respiratory assistance, 3.6% were admitted to an intensive care unit, and 5.5% died.

The mortality rate was 0.13% in the overall CML cohort.

“This study reports the 1-year of data on the COVID-19 infection in a specific hematological malignancy in the European country first hit by the pandemic,” the authors wrote. “A longer follow-up is needed to further define the impact of COVID-19 infection sequelae in CML patients.”

Disclosure: The presenter declared affiliations with Novartis, Incyte, Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb/Celgene, and AbbVie.

Read more of Cancer Therapy Advisor’s coverage of the EHA 2021 Virtual Congress by visiting the conference page.


Breccia M, Abruzzese E, Accurso V, et al. COVID-19 infection in chronic myeloid leukemia after 1 year of the pandemic in Italy. A campus CML analysis. Paper presented at: European Hematology Association 2021 Virtual Congress; June 2021; Abstract S154.