Cancer drugs show promise in treating COVID-19


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Researchers are turning to cancer drugs as an option to treat COVID-19.

Acalabrutinib and ibrutinib, which are FDA approved to treat different kinds of leukemia, are being studied to see if they can help patients with inflammation caused by the virus. 

“Are they going to be effective or could they be harmful? Because sometimes medicines could be harmful if we’re just giving them to people without knowing the results,” said Dr. Jeff Yorio, Medical Oncologist and Hematologist at Texas Oncology – Austin Central. “My hope is that we continue to run lots of clinical trials with existing medicines and with new medicines and we learn more about what is truly effective.”

Yorio explained that early data by their national research group published in Science Immunology, showed acalabrutinib improved breathing and inflammation.

The study included fewer than 20 patients who were diagnosed with the virus.

“We’ll have to wait and see if with… a big randomized clinical trial that actually shows any real improvement or not,” said Yorio. “A lot of those medicines you know theoretically have some promise, because they can increase this sort of inflammatory state that happens with COVID-19.”

A government registry shows there are three clinical trials in the country involving these drugs. 

The most recent looks at how ibrutinib works in treating hospitalized COVID-19 patients and if it reduces the need for a ventilator. 

“Our goals are usually to do randomized trials where you can compare ‘Okay, did this drug work versus not doing this drug? And do we see differences?’” said Yorio. “Enough differences to say that this drug is really an effective drug.”

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