Researchers with the UNC Tobacco Treatment Programs and UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center are participating in a national study investigating the associations between smoking and COVID-19 outcomes.

UNC Lineberger is one of 21 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers that will assess whether smoking impacts COVID-19 symptoms, treatment and outcomes. More cancer centers may be joining the NCI’s Cancer Center Cessation Initiative-led collaboration.

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Adam O. Goldstein, MD, MPH, is a UNC Lineberger member and professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine.

UNC Lineberger’s Adam Goldstein, MD, MPH, director of the UNC Tobacco Treatment Programs and professor in the UNC Department of Family Medicine, said the researchers will review the cases of nearly 60,000 people from all age groups and across the country, including from UNC, who have had laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 infection or are presumed to have been infected based on provider-assigned diagnosis codes. The national database will include information about smoking status, secondhand tobacco smoke exposure and treatment outcomes, but it will not contain information that personally identifies a patient.

“Since early studies show smoking negatively impacts COVID-19 outcomes, this research may ultimately help lower risks of bad outcomes and help people quit smoking” said Goldstein, co-project lead for UNC.

The researchers also will look at available social determinants of health, such as insurance status, and pre-existing diagnoses that may affect COVID-19 outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, obesity, and cancer.

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Kimberly Shoenbill, MD, PhD, is an assistant professor in the UNC School of Medicine Department of Family Medicine and the Program on Health and Clinical Informatics.

“We don’t know nearly enough about COVID-19 and how it affects specific populations or patients with certain comorbidities,” said Kimberly Shoenbill, MD, PhD, co-project lead and assistant professor of Family Medicine and the Program on Health and Clinical Informatics. “Evaluating more data from thousands of patients will hopefully help us to better define risks and find patterns that inform providers’ treatment of COVID-19 patients and patients’ lifestyle choices to minimize risks.”

In addition to Goldstein and Shoenbill, the UNC team includes Donald Spencer, MD, MBA, UNC Department of Family Medicine and UNC Health chief medical informatics officer, representatives from the North Carolina Translational Clinical and Sciences (NC TraCS) Institute at UNC-Chapel Hill, including Anna Jojic, MLS, Kellie Walters, MPH, and Evan Colmenares, PharmD, of the UNC Health Pharmacy Services Analytics and Outcomes Team.