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Early survival for patients newly diagnosed with cancer during COVID-19 in Ontario, Canada: a population-based cohort study


Background — Little is known about the association between the COVID-19 pandemic and early survival among newly diagnosed cancer patients.

Methods — This retrospective population-based cohort study used linked administrative datasets from Ontario, Canada. Adults (≥18 years) who received a cancer diagnosis between March 15 and December 31, 2020, were included in a pandemic cohort, while those diagnosed during the same dates in 2018/2019 were included in a pre-pandemic cohort. All patients were followed for one full year after the date of diagnosis. Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to assess survival in relation to the pandemic, patient characteristics at diagnosis, and the modality of first cancer treatment as a time-varying covariate. Interaction terms were explored to measure the pandemic association with survival for each cancer type.

Results — Among 179,746 patients, 53,387 (29.7%) were in the pandemic cohort and 37,741 (21.0%) died over the first post-diagnosis year. No association between the pandemic and survival was found when adjusting for patient characteristics at diagnosis (HR 0.99 [95% CI 0.96–1.01]), while marginally better survival was found for the pandemic cohort when the modality of treatment was additionally considered (HR 0.97 [95% CI 0.95–0.99]). When examining each cancer type, only a new melanoma diagnosis was associated with a worse survival in the pandemic cohort (HR 1.25 [95% CI 1.05–1.49]).

Conclusions — Among patients able to receive a cancer diagnosis during the pandemic, one-year overall survival was not different than those diagnosed in the previous 2 years. This study highlights the complex nature of the COVID-19 pandemic impact on cancer care.



Fu R, Sutradhar R, Li Q, Kalraj P, Dare A, Hanna TP, Chan KKW, Irish JC, Coburn N, Hallet J, Singh S, Parmar A, Earle CC, Lapointe-Shaw L, Krzyzanowska MK, Louie AV, Mahar A, Urbach DR, McIsaac DI, Enepekides D, Gomez D, Look Hong NJ, Tinmouth J, Eskander A. Cancer Med. 2023; 12(10):11849-59. Epub 2023 Mar 31.

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