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What do COVID-19 and Cancer Share in Common?

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I’ve spent twenty years providing personalized medicine consultation for cancer patients, mostly those suffering from Stage IV advanced cancers. The most common feature, which I observed in the vast majority of advanced cancers (and often in early state cancers too) is hyper-coagulation (over-clotting of blood).

The connection between hypercoagulation and cancer received scant attention in the medical literature until the 1980’s when the topic began gaining attention. During the past two decades, different trials have shown survival and treatment benefits when anticoagulants are added to standard cancer treatments. In fact, one such study showed that some patients with pancreatic cancer managed to attain complete response to chemotherapy when it was combined with the anticoagulant, heparin.

Identifying the existence of hyper-coagulation is key to providing appropriate treatment, and monitoring the response. In the case of a 60-year-old lady with pancreatic cancer diagnosed 5 years ago, I was able to identify the problem immediately after diagnosis and advised her physicians to instigate treatment with anticoagulation therapies right away. After her cancer disappeared (which took about 9 months), she has maintained anticoagulation therapy, with intermittent monitoring, and so far so good.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the first thing that caught my attention in reports coming from China was the extraordinarily high blood coagulation in these patients. Soon thereafter, and together with my colleagues Drs. Alejandro Jadad and Esther Berkowitz published two papers proposing different drug-repurposing strategies for COVID-19 patients, which included addressing the sudden hypercoagulative state.

The impairment of blood flow lies at the heart of numerous diseases and disabilities. When small clots form in the blood, cancer can spread more easily, and COVID-19 becomes quite deadly. Interestingly, 21 years ago Dutch researchers showed that a range of common respiratory viruses induced hypercoagulation. Unfortunately, this research has been overlooked.

Lately, I have been hearing about cases of cancer patients whose disease has intensified after COVID-19 or vaccination. To mitigate this risk, it would be wise to establish a cancer patient’s baseline coagulation parameters (via testing for PT/PTT, d-dimer, and fibrinogen) prior to vaccination, and carefully monitoring in the post-vaccination period. This will allow for early intervention in case hypercoagulation develops.

For those who are otherwise healthy, there are many food and spice choices that help keep blood thin and flowing smoothly. Search Google for a list and remember to discuss with your healthcare provider if you are taking any medications, to ensure compatibility.

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