A CRIS supported investigation into the immune system of immunodeficient and cancer patients infected with COVID-19.



The unprecedented health emergency that we are experiencing in the UK and throughout the world requires a response that is unprecedented.


Right now, it is urgent to develop new therapeutic strategies to contain the pandemic and also assist those who are more vulnerable to the disease, such as cancer patients.


In order to find the most effective ways to combat this virus, it is extremely important to determine exactly what impact the virus has in patients who are more vulnerable as a result of partial or complete suppression of the immune response.


To this end, an ambitious multidisciplinary project has been launched at the Hospital Clínico San Carlos (Madrid). This important research study will be led by Dr. Silvia Sánchez Ramón from the Immunology Service, Dr. Alberto Ocaña from the CRIS Unit of Experimental Therapies, and Dr. Pérez Segura, Head of the Oncology Service.


As a result of collaborative scientific research at the onset of this pandemic, it has been determined that the immune system plays a fundamental role in the development of this disease. In fact, one of the risk factors that seem to predispose some people to contract a more serious form of Covid-19 is immunosuppression – suppression of the immune system and its ability to fight infection.


The study with a budget of €150,000 will seek to analyse in detail the immune response of patients with primary and secondary immunodeficiencies (including cancer patients) when they are infected with the coronavirus.


Immunosuppression can result due to multiple factors. Some people are born with mutations in some important genes of the immune system, which can lead to a worse functioning of their defenses against infections. These are what we call primary immunodeficiencies. On the other hand, we have secondary or acquired immunodeficiencies that can develop due to other types of causes, such as

from certain diseases, or from certain drugs, including some used to treat cancer.


Although cancer patients appear to be at increased risk, data on the behaviour of the virus in these patients and how their immune systems work is still very scarce. This is why it is important to determine exactly what is happening in these vulnerable patients in order to then find the most effective ways to combat the infectious disease.


Dr. Silvia Sánchez Ramón notes: “In more than 80% of patients the disease presents without symptoms or with very mild symptoms, which shows that the immune system is essential to stop the virus. In patients arriving at the hospital, it is important to study the immune component that is associated with a worse prognosis, because then we will be able to identify at an early stage patients who will have a worse evolution and then start treatment early, and also develop new therapeutic strategies more aligned with the pathology.


This in-depth study will help find solutions as soon as possible, thereby helping save many lives.

Research funded by CRIS is once again providing an urgent response to an urgent need.