Cancer patient saw disease all but vanish after catching Covid

The cancer patient was taken to hospital after developing the virus - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
The cancer patient was taken to hospital after developing the virus - Andy Rain/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Covid may have caused a cancer patient's tumours to vanish, according to doctors, who said it could have sparked an "anti-tumour immune response" in the man.

The 61-year-old patient at the Royal Cornwall Hospital in Truro had a check-up last summer after being diagnosed with Hogkin's Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer that affects 2,100 people in the UK each year.

The disease, which occurs when white blood cells get out of control and spread to the lymph nodes, is typically treated with chemotherapy and around 90 per cent of patients are still alive five years afterwards.

Days after being told his chest was riddled with tumours and before starting treatment, the man was admitted to hospital after developing severe Covid. After making a full recovery, he had another scan and discovered the cancer had almost completely disappeared.

Sudden remission with Hogkin's Lymphoma is possible but is extremely rare. Just a couple of dozen similar cases have ever been recorded worldwide.

The case was revealed in the British Journal of Haematology.

Dr Sarah Challoner, of the Royal Cornwall Hospital, said: "We think Covid-19 triggered an anti-tumour immune response."

Dr Challoner added that the medical team believed T-cells, which fight infections in the body, may have also attacked cancer cells and led to the remission.

However, other clinicians warned against making early assumptions about the cause of the recovery. Martin Ledwick, Cancer Research UK's head cancer information nurse, said: "At this stage it's too early to draw any conclusions from these cases – it's quite possibly a coincidence.

"Anyone undergoing cancer treatment should continue to follow the advice of their doctors, as well as protecting themselves from catching Covid-19, and we encourage all who can to take up the vaccine."

A report in the Italian medical journal Acta Biomedica, published last year, highlighted a similar case at Cremona Hospital in Italy.