Effectiveness of Covid vaccines will be studied in people with cancer and other low immunity conditions

Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 10:49 am
Updated Wednesday, 3rd March 2021, 10:50 am
The study will focus on patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions (Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)

The immune response to Covid-19 vaccinations in patients with certain immunosuppressed conditions, such as cancer, is set to be investigated in a new study funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

As well as cancer, patients with inflammatory arthritis, disease of the kidney or liver, or who are receiving a stem cell transplant, may be at increased risk of the more severe complications of infection from Covid-19.

These medical conditions, and the treatment that these patients receive as part of their care, may weaken their immune system, meaning that vaccines are especially necessary for these groups - however, researched have stated that current evidence suggests that people with these conditions may not obtain optimal protection from established vaccines.

A ‘nationally collaborative study’

The new Octave trial will seek to better determine the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in these at-risk patient groups.

The trial, funded by the MRC, is a collaborative project which involves groups in the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Oxford, Liverpool, Imperial College London and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

The study is also sponsored by the University of Birmingham, and is being run by the University’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU).

Pam Kearns, University of Birmingham Professor and Director of the CRCTU, said: “We are pleased to be supporting this important nationally collaborative study that will inform the best use of the Covid-19 vaccines to protect these vulnerable patients.”

‘Invaluable new data’

The study will investigate the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines being used in the UK in 2021, in up to 5,000 people within these patient groups.

Recruitment for the study has already begun at sites across the UK, and the trial will compare results from the study group against control groups of healthy people without the listed underlying medical conditions, who also have been given Covid-19 vaccinations.

It is unclear how long the Covid-19 vaccines provide immunity for, which means there may be an ongoing need for vaccination against the virus for years to come.

Professor Iain McInnes, Head of the College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences at the University of Glasgow, who is leading the Octave study, said: “We urgently need to understand if patient populations with chronic conditions such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis and kidney and liver disease are likely to be well protected by current Covid-19 vaccines.

“The Octave study will give us invaluable new data to help us answer questions of this kind from our patients and their families.”

Professor Fiona Watt, executive chair of the MRC, added: “The study is investigating the response to the new Covid-19 vaccines in people whose immune systems make them more vulnerable to Covid-19 and other infections.

“This will help ensure that those more at risk from infection receive the best protection possible.”