The SARS-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has rapidly spread worldwide causing the global pandemic. There are a number of comorbidities and risk factors associated with COVID-19 and cancer patients could be at particular higher risk since they tend to be older, likely to have multiple comorbidities, and are often immunosuppressed due to the disease and cancer treatment. Our team has been collaborating with the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania through an NCI U54 CA190155 Cancer Research International Training and Intervention Consortium project to study HIV/AIDS associated cancers in Tanzania. As part of that collaboration, we investigated the prevalence of a number of other common infectious agents in the population, such as the Kaposi?s sarcoma herpesvirus, hepatitis and HIV, by testing plasma collected from cancer patients and blood bank donors. Because this collection was prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have retested some of them recently and have detected antibody responses that appear to target the SARS-CoV-2 proteins. This suggests that cross-reactive antibodies were present in a portion of the Tanzanian population prior to the outbreak, which could confer some protection against SARS-CoV-2. Thus, our overall objective is to develop a better understanding of potential immunological factors that may contribute to partial protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease pathogenesis in cancer patients in Tanzania. We hypothesize that cross- reactive antibodies against different strains of coronaviruses in Africa are present prior to the pandemic, which will provide cross protection to prevent an increase of SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19, in both cancer patients and the general population in Tanzania during the pandemic.
Our specific aim i s to determine and compare the prevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among cancer patients and the general population, prior to and during the current COVID-19 pandemic. This will be carried out by: a) analyzing the cancer patients plasma collected by our ongoing U54 current prior to the pandemic and those collected from a prospective cohort of cancer patients recruited during the pandemic by this proposed study, for the presence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies; b) analyzing a large panel of normal blood donors collected prior to the pandemic and a second panel collected prospectively by this study during the current pandemic; c) compare the prevalence of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies between cancer patients and the general population before and during the current pandemic. The proposed study is significant and timely because it will synergize with our ongoing U54 project and utilize its collected patients? specimen, to determine the protective effect of cross-reactive antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in both HIV-1 infected and uninfected cancer patients in comparison to the general population, both prior to and during the current pandemic.

Public Health Relevance

The results generated by our study will determine the prevalence of cross-reactive antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 and its protective effects in cancer patients, in comparison to the general population, both prior to and during the current pandemic. The knowledge generated could lead to the development of strategies to prevent SARS- CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 disease progression in high-risk cancer patients in Africa and the rest of the world, including the US.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Specialized Center--Cooperative Agreements (U54)
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Dominguez, Geraldina
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University of Nebraska Lincoln
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Tso, For Yue; Kossenkov, Andrew V; Lidenge, Salum J et al. (2018) RNA-Seq of Kaposi's sarcoma reveals alterations in glucose and lipid metabolism. PLoS Pathog 14:e1006844
Campbell, Julee A; Soliman, Amr S; Kahesa, Crispin et al. (2016) Changing Patterns of lung, liver, and head and neck non-AIDS-defining cancers relative to HIV status in Tanzania between 2002-2014. Infect Agent Cancer 11:58