A concerning increase in the risk of developing heart tumors has been discovered in patients who have had COVID-19, according to a recent study conducted by the Almazov National Medical Research Centre in Russia. The study reveals a 1.5-fold increase in the number of heart tumors, including rare cardiac tumors such as myxofibrosarcomas and chondrosarcoma. This finding highlights the potential long-term health implications of the virus, as many individuals are unaware of the presence of heart tumors until they reach a dangerous stage.
While the acute phase of COVID-19 primarily affects the respiratory system, growing evidence suggests that it also has long-term effects on various organs, including the cardiovascular system. Even individuals who have recovered from the acute phase of the disease face a higher risk of developing cardiovascular problems such as heart rhythm disturbances, myocarditis, blood clots, strokes, myocardial infarction, and heart failure. This risk extends to those who experienced mild or latent infections, not just severe cases. It is becoming increasingly clear that COVID-19 may contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
One proposed mechanism for COVID-19’s impact on the cardiovascular system is endotheliitis. The virus has the ability to suppress the immune response and cause lymphopenia, which is characterized by reduced levels of T-lymphocytes that play a crucial role in fighting against the virus. Additionally, the virus may cause direct damage to cardiomyocytes due to a compromised T-cell immune response, leading to inflammation in the heart and complicating the relationship between COVID-19 and cardiovascular issues.
Emerging evidence also suggests a potential link between COVID-19 and long-term cancer risk. Viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, can damage host DNA, suppress immune responses, and disrupt programmed cell death. Some researchers propose that COVID-19 may contribute to cancer development and progression. Mendelian randomization studies have indicated an increased risk of specific cancers in individuals with a genetic predisposition to severe COVID-19, emphasizing the intricate relationship between the virus and cancer-related pathways.
The study conducted by the Almazov National Medical Research Centre reveals a concerning trend of an increase in heart tumors, specifically myxomas, by 2023. The study found the expression of spike SARS-CoV-2 in tumor cells, endothelial cells, and macrophages, raising questions about the virus’s persistence in these cells and its potential role in the development of cardiac neoplasms. Intriguingly, the study also observed the emergence of rare cardiac tumors, such as myxofibrosarcomas and chondrosarcoma, and highlighted the importance of understanding the histogenesis of cardiac tumors.
The presence of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein in tumor cells, macrophages, and vascular endothelial cells underscores the role of endothelial dysfunction in the development of cardiac neoplasms. Additionally, the expression of SARS-CoV-2 in tumor macrophages suggests that these immune cells can serve as carriers of the virus, further complicating the potential oncogenic mechanisms related to these findings.
The study’s results challenge previous data and suggest that there may indeed be an increase in heart tumors in COVID-19 patients. The study also draws attention to the role of blood clot formation in post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 and the potential for misdiagnoses of cardiovascular issues due to the virus’s impact on the clotting cascade.
Further research is necessary to understand the long-term consequences of COVID-19 and the shared molecular pathways between the virus and tumor initiation. The causal relationship between COVID-19 and cancer remains an open question, but the evidence of their interplay is undeniable. Continued vigilance among healthcare professionals and ongoing research are crucial in improving patient care and public health strategies.