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New trial tests cancer drug to treat COVID-19

A new trial repurposing a blood cancer drug for patients with COVID-19 is being launched.

cancer drug COVID-19Researchers from King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust begin a new trial in repurposing blood cancer drug for patients with COVID-19. Both the Masterstroke Polycythaemia Fund and LifeArc have funded the research. 

The trial will study the use of ruxolitinib (Novartis Pharmaceuticals), a drug currently used to treat certain types of blood cancer, to see if it can help reduce complications in COVID-19 patients. It is hoped that this could help more patients survive the disease, and reduce the number of patients being taken to intensive care.

Patients with severe COVID-19 can experience hyperinflammation. This occurs when the patients’ bodies respond to the virus by producing high levels of inflammation-causing cells resulting in harmful inflammation. This reaction can send the body into shock and ultimately damage multiple organs, such as the heart, lungs and vascular system.

Ruxolitinib is a type of drug called a JAK inhibitor. It blocks the signals required to produce the inflammation-causing cells and therefore reduces inflammation in the patient. It is currently approved for use in certain myeloproliferative neoplasms, rare forms of blood cancer, but researchers want to see if it can prevent hyperinflammation in COVID-19 patients.

Initially 19 patients will participate in the trial, which is based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. If the first phase is successful, the trial will proceed to the next stage and a total of 59 patients will be enrolled.

Dr Shahram Kordasti, Senior Lecturer in Applied Cancer Immunopathology at King’s College London and the scientific lead, said:

This is a very exciting project and thanks to support from LifeArc we aim to identify immune signatures which predict a response to JAK inhibitors in patients with severe form of COVID-19.
This is extremely important for identifying the right time for intervention. We will use cutting edge methods to identify the best time and most suitable patients for therapy and to evaluate the immune response following therapy.

To read the story, visit the Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation website.

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