Drug used to treat cancer appears to be effective against Covid-19

Hyperaxion Jun 8, 2020

In clinical trials, the drug appeared to control the “cytokine storm”, an exaggerated immune response that leads to most deaths from the new coronavirus.

A drug known as acalabrutinib, which acts as a blocker of the protein Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) and is used to treat various types of blood cancer, was beneficial in the treatment of a small group of patients with Covid-19. The discovery was published in the journal Science Immunology last Friday (5) by researchers at the National Cancer Institute in the United States.

Drug used to treat cancer appears to be effective against Covid-19
(Credit: Wikimedia Commons).

BTK plays an important role in the immune system, as it influences the production of proteins called cytokines, which act as chemical messengers and help to stimulate and direct the body’s immune response. In some patients with Covid-19, a large amount of cytokine is released into the body at once, causing the immune system to overreact and harm the body instead of helping it.

The researchers intended to test the effectiveness of the BTK-inhibiting drug precisely in reducing this overactive immune response. For this, they selected 19 patients diagnosed with Covid-19 and who needed to be hospitalized. All had low blood oxygen levels and evidence of inflammation in the body. Among the volunteers, 11 were considered to be of moderate condition, having received supplemental oxygenation for two days, and eight, more severe, had to stay at least a day and a half on ventilators.

According to the scientists, of the 11 patients with moderate Covid-19 who received the drug, eight started breathing on their own and were discharged after less than a week of treatment. Among people with more severe conditions, four managed to get off the ventilators, two were discharged from the hospital and two ended up dying.

The researchers note that while BTK inhibitors are approved to treat certain types of cancer, they are not approved to fight the new coronavirus. This study aims to stimulate further research with the drug.

Related topics:

Coronavirus Covid-19

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