Study Says: Severity Of Covid-19 Might Decrease With A Drug Used To Treat CancerTop Stories

June 06, 2020 14:42
Study Says: Severity Of Covid-19 Might Decrease With A Drug Used To Treat Cancer

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A drug approved to treat several blood cancers is seen as a possibility to reduce the severity of coronavirus infection. Perhaps it would help with decreasing respiratory distress and this is a positive hope for fighting against the infection.

The cancer drug acalabrutinib has the ability to block the protein Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) in COVID-19 patients and it even provides clinical benefits to a small group, according to the researchers.

According to a study published in the journal science immunology, these findings should not be taken as a clinical advice, this needs to be tested further.

The BTK protein plays a role in the immune system, these include macrophages that cause inflammation by producing cytokines(proteins).

According to researchers, these proteins are chemical messengers that strengthen and direct the immune response. In some patients having severe COVID-19, a large number of cytokines are released and these proteins cause the immune system hamper the functioning of the lungs, this process is even known as a “cytokine storm”.

What did the scientists do?

There were 19 patients diagnosed for COVID-19 and hospitalized because their blood-oxygen levels dropped down and they had inflammation problems.

Out of the 19 patients, 11 of them were given supplemental oxygen for two days and they had been on ventilators for 8 hours for 1.5 days.

What did they notice?

In a span of three days, patients who received supplemental oxygen were benefited the most and their breathing improved. This even resulted in reduced inflammation.

Out of these 11 patients, eight of them were able to recover due to supplemental oxygen and were discharged from the hospital.

What about patients in ventilators?

The benefits of acalabrutinibdidn’t seem to be effective for patients in ventilators. According to the scientists, only 4 patients were able to come out of the ventilator and were discharged.

In this group, two patients passed away. The individuals put in ventilators had patients in it for a long time and most of them were suffering from an organ dysfunction.

What did the scientists summarize after the experiment?

When individuals have severe COVID-19, the levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), a major cytokine related to hyperinflammation decreased after being treated with acalabrutinib.

The counts of lymphocytes (this is an immune cell type related to a bad income in COVID-19 patients) also got better in most of the patients.

To get a clear understanding, this is what the researchers did

i. They tested the blood cells of patients with severe COVID-19 and who were not a part of this study.

ii. They compared these tests with the samples of healthy volunteers

Finally, what they understood is that patients with COVID-19 had a higher activity of the BTK protein and they produced more IL-6. Considering these results, they suggested that acalabrutinibmight be effective and BTKis hyperactive in the case of severe COVID-19 immune cells.

On the other hand, scientists even mentioned thatlong-term acalabrutinib therapy included "low-grade headache, diarrhea, pyrexia and upper respiratory tract infections."

They mentioned that the safety in using acalabrutinib still needs to be confirmed after a clinical trial.

By Neha Makhija

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