Mays Cancer Center conducting study to learn how COVID-19 vaccine affects patients with cancer

Novavax vaccine

Individuals with cancer who get COVID-19 are more likely to have severe illness and higher death rates compared to the general public.

The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson, has prioritized offering the COVID-19 vaccine to its patients and is conducting an observational study to better understand how the immune system responds to the novel coronavirus vaccine in patients with cancer.

“This study will help us understand who has developed protection against COVID-19 and who might need an additional booster shot,” said Dimpy Shah, MD, PhD, epidemiologist and assistant professor of population health sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UT Health San Antonio). She also is a member of its Mays Cancer Center.

“From my past studies looking at different viruses, we have observed that, despite vaccination, some patients with cancer do not develop sufficient antibodies to fight infection. This is because cancer suppresses the immune system. For this reason, cancer patients were not included in earlier COVID studies, so we do not have good data to know how effective the vaccine is in patients who are receiving cancer therapy,” Dr. Shah explained.

Dr. Shah is leading the study with Kate Lathrop, MD, a breast oncologist at the Mays Cancer Center and an associate professor of hematology/oncology at UT Health San Antonio.

“This will be a very important study for helping us prevent worse outcomes in our patients with cancer and COVID-19. The study could also potentially help us predict how similar vaccines will affect our patients in the future,” Dr. Lathrop added.

Patients will be enrolled in the study when they receive their two COVID vaccinations at the Mays Cancer Center. Their doctors will follow them for up to 18 months to monitor side effects and learn how long the immune response lasts.

The name of the clinical trial is “Host Immune Response to Novel RNA COVID Vaccination in Patients with Cancer.” Mays Cancer Center patients who received the coronavirus vaccine before the study was launched on Feb. 18 may contact their doctor through MyChart to participate.

— Contributed by Rosanne Fohn

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The Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, is one of only four National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers in Texas. The Mays Cancer Center provides leading-edge cancer care, propels innovative cancer research and educates the next generation of leaders to end cancer in South Texas. Visit

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