The first dose of COVID-19 vaccine was offered to cancer patients at Velindre Cancer Centre in January 2021. Since cancer, and cancer treatments, can impact negatively on the immune system, it wasn’t known how vaccination would affect immune responses in cancer patients. To try and determine whether vaccinated cancer patients are at increased risk of developing serious COVID-19-related illness, compared to people without cancer, it was important to test antibodies produced by the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine. The study was extremely popular with patients who were keen to know whether vaccine-induced immunity towards COVID-19 was adversely affected by their cancer diagnosis and their cancer treatment.

Prof. Awen Gallimore and her team of researchers at Cardiff University School of Medicine, with funding from several vital sources, gathered to collect and process the samples; with tests developed by a local biotech company, Immunoserv being used to measure responses. Further collaboration between Wales Cancer Biobank clinical teams, consultants, nurses and laboratory staff ensured that patients were fully informed, consented, vaccinated and blood samples taken at a number of defined time points during weekend clinics at Velindre Cancer Centre. 

Results of the study revealed a delay in the generation of COVID immunity in cancer patients. However, for most patients, a second dose was enough to boost immune responses. Responses also declined at a faster rate in cancer patients indicating the importance of measuring immunity in order to identify patients in greater need of further vaccination.

The study is ongoing and all the data is being used to understand the impact of vaccinations on cancer and cancer treatments. We hope these findings will aid the design of future vaccination strategies.

If you’d like to view the full published study please click here.