Antibody Testing for JMBCC Cancer Patients Begins, Is Funded by TOGNO Foundation

Funded by the Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out Foundation, COVID-19 IgG antibody testing for Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center (JMBCC) cancer patients began on Thursday, August 6. The patients have the option to have one antibody test for their personal knowledge or to volunteer to participate in Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine’s (CSSIMMW) SARS-CoV-2 antibody surveillance (COVID-19) research, with retesting every three months for at least a year.

JMBCC Director Erin Goins said the initiative fits well with TOGNO’s mission of helping breast cancer patients.“That’s why they raise so much money every year for our patients,” Goins said. “If we can go ahead and do a study with our breast cancer patients, absolutely, it’s for the patients. That’s what they’re all about.”

Individuals with cancer may be immunocompromised and far more likely to have severe health problems or illness if they become sick with the coronavirus disease. This is due to other underlying risk factors and existing comorbidities such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, etc. At this time, little is known about how COVID-19 impacts cancer patients and further research is needed.

CSSIMMW will collect blood samples and analyze data through the planned SARS-CoV-2 antibody surveillance research in an effort to examine whether a robust IgG antibody response corresponds with immunity and how this affects otherwise healthy individuals and cancer patients.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Csikos said, “Since the pandemic is only six months old, there’s no data on long-term immune response in any individual. The immune response to COVID-19 is not fully understood, and definitive data on post infection immunity is lacking. It is not known for certain whether individuals infected with SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) who subsequently recover will be protected either fully or partially from future infection with SARS-CoV-2 or how long protective immunity may last. In six months since the virus emerged, the CDC said ‘there have been no confirmed cases of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection.’”

Studies such as this will also help in determining the distribution and pattern of COVID-19 infection in an area like ours with a low-prevalence of COVID-19 and advance our understanding of the infection pattern of this disease. Additionally, we will have the opportunity to compare our data with published data on the distribution patterns obtained in major metropolitan areas with a higher prevalence of COVID-19.

About the COVID-19 IgG Antibody Test

The antibody test is a simple blood draw that indicates if a person had the virus that causes COVID-19 and has developed antibodies against it. This is helpful because it can indicate whether someone has been previously infected, or was exposed 10-21 days ago.

The IgG antibody test is intended for use as an aid in identifying individuals with an intact immune response, a detection of antibodies, to SARS-CoV-2, indicating recent or prior infection. IgG antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 are generally detectable in blood at least 10-21 days after initial infection, although the duration of time antibodies are present post-infection is not well characterized. Negative results do not rule out acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. If acute infection is suspected, a swab test (molecular PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction) for SARS-CoV-2 is recommended.

Pictured above: JMBCC Clinical Research LPN Heather Kabala draws blood from breast cancer patient Diana Skowron, of Johnstown.

About Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber

Founded in 1906, Chan Soon-Shiong Medical Center at Windber (CSSMCW) is an independent, non-profit acute care hospital in northern Somerset County, bordering Cambria County. The 54-bed hospital shares a campus and collaborates with Chan Soon-Shiong Institute of Molecular Medicine at Windber (CSSIMMW), a private, non-profit biomedical research center. With more than 450 employees, CSSMCW is the fourth largest employer in Somerset County. CSSMCW’s mission is to provide excellence in personalized, quality health care services through innovation, research and education in response to community needs. For more information visit