SARS-CoV-2 testing for asymptomatic adult cancer patients before initiating systemic treatments: a systematic review

9 Sep 2020
Guilherme Harada, Fernanda F Antonacio, Aline BL Gongora, Marina H Behar, Fernanda C Capareli, Diogo A Bastos, Rodrigo R Munhoz, Frederico P Costa, Denis L Jardim, Celso Arrais-Rodrigues, Yana Novis, Artur Katz, Gilberto de Castro Junior

Introduction: Cancer patients may have a higher risk of severe events and unfavourable outcomes in the setting of COVID-19. This review addresses the question of whether to test asymptomatic cancer patients before initiating systemic cancer treatments.

Methods: This systematic review was conducted based on the PRISMA framework. Pubmed, Embase, Web of Science and Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials were systematically searched, as well as guidelines from international institutions involved in cancer care and COVID-19 research. Studies published in English, from 1 December 2019 to 27 May 2020 were considered eligible. We included studies which mentioned testing strategies for SARS-CoV-2 of asymptomatic cancer patients before starting immunosuppressive treatments.

Results: We identified 1,163 studies and 4 guidelines through the literature search. A total of 18 articles were considered eligible and were included in the final analysis. Two articles were cohort studies, and the remaining were expert consensuses and published guidelines. The most common recommendation among the studies in this systematic review was to test asymptomatic patients for SARS-CoV-2 prior to treatment.

Conclusion: There is a lack of studies which directly address COVID-19 testing of asymptomatic patients before treatment. Our systematic review showed that most of the published data favours routine test for SARS-CoV-2 before initiating systemic treatment but failed to identify a good level of evidence to support these recommendations. Based upon this review, we proposed local recommendations at our centre. Each institution should consider the pros and cons of testing asymptomatic patients, evaluating accessibility to testing resources and local epidemiology.

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