Project summary:

For cancer patients, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in challenging decision making about shielding and delaying treatment, instituted on ‘‘best guess’’ consensus rather than evidence.  As a prospective study set up within weeks of the first peak of the pandemic in the UK, the eligibility criteria for recruitment in the SOAP study was purposefully designed to be as inclusive as possible to obtain as much timely information about COVID19, cancer and the immune signature for cancer patients.

The key objective was to address two main questions: (1) is there an immune signature of COVID19 which is specific to cancer patients; and (2) do recovered cancer patients carry a post-infection immunological legacy?  This work provided the world’s first insights into the immunological response to SARS-CoV-2 in cancer patients (Sultan et al, Cancer Cell 2021). Whilst our study provided reassurance to many people with cancer, it also highlighted that patient cannot be grouped together when it comes to delivering cancer care during the pandemic.  Our work suggested that haematological cancer patients may be susceptible to persistent infection despite developing antibodies, so the next stage of our study focussed on monitoring their response to the vaccines.  We conducted a prospective longitudinal observational study of cancer patients receiving the Pfizer vaccine between December 8th, 2020, and February 18th, 2021. This work provided world-first insights into both antibody and T cell responses to the RNA-based SARS-CoV-2 BNT162b2 vaccine administered in cancer patients. It also provided evidence the immunological protection of clinically extremely vulnerable populations by even a highly efficacious vaccine may require bespoke dosing regimens. This research has directly contributed to changes in vaccine policy with cancer patients in the UK bringing forward their second dose earlier and contributed to the JCVI recommendation to prioritise vaccination for household contacts of immunocompromised cancer patients alongside priority group-6.


Cancer Research UK (CRUK), King’s College London, Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation NHS Trust , GSTT Charity, Blood Cancer UK and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS)

Leader researcher:

Dr Sheeba Irshad

Lead institution:

King's College London

Vaccine type:


Recruitment for clinical trial open:



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