COVID-19: The Unknowns Cause Concern

March 18, 2020
Patrick I. Borgen, MD

An oncologist discusses the scary unknowns of COVID-19.

We know that COVID-19 is a major threat to people who are immunocompromised (including many patients with cancer), but there is still much about the virus that remains unknown, says Patrick I. Borgen, MD, chair of the Department of Surgery and director of the Breast Cancer Program at Maimonides Medical Center.


One of the things that seems to be clear about COVID-19 is that it is really dangerous for immuno-suppressed patients. And we do a lot of immunosuppression in the cancer treatment world. So having a maximum amount of care and caution is the right thing for us to be doing right now.

I think that we're on the early-edge of understanding this. Is it possible that this is a seasonal virus that will settle in to another part of the flu vaccine? It is definitely possible. I don't believe this is SARS, I don't believe this is H1N1... But it might be stronger than the current flu that took 18,000 lives in the country this year. It could be a worse virus than that. So I think for me, what gives me pause, what makes me the most concerned, is that there is so much we don't know.