An international clinical trial has been launched after a cancer drug that targets the root cause of extreme inflammation showed promise in a preliminary study.

In some people with mild or moderate COVID-19, the illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, their condition briefly improves, only to suddenly worsen.

These people may then develop severe breathing difficulties, known as acute respiratory distress syndrome.

Scientists speculate that even when the infection is being brought under control, the virus can trigger an excessive immune response, causing hyper-inflammation of the lungs and other organs.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute, in the United States, realized that because acalabrutinib inhibits BTK, it could potentially reduce inflammation in people with severe COVID-19.

By the end of the follow-up period, eight of the 11 patients who had been receiving supplemental oxygen no longer needed help breathing and had been discharged from the hospital.

“Though we expected that the optimal time to initiate anti-inflammatory treatment would be prior to deterioration requiring intubation, these results suggest that BTK inhibition may provide significant benefit to a subset of patients with COVID-19 on ventilators.”

– Mark Roschewski et al.

Medical reference: Medical News Today