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Blood Cancer Drug Shows Promise in Treating Coronavirus

the ouside of astrazeneca's manufacturing site
British pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca's manufacturing site in Macclesfield, northwest England, in 2014.  (Andrew Yates/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Tuesday, 14 April 2020 06:05 PM

A drug normally used to treat blood cancer may be able to also help fight coronavirus, according to Forbes.

Researchers at the National Cancer Institute gave Calquence to a small group of late-stage coronavirus patients who were hospitalized at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland. Early signs show that Calquence, which goes by the generic name acalabrutinib, has helped patients who are on ventilators and in intensive care units.

“NCI is involved with administration of off-label use of acalabrutinib in a small number of selected patients with severe COVID-19,” the National Cancer Institute wrote in a statement to Forbes, being careful to dampen speculation. “While some clinical benefit has been observed in select patients with advanced lung disease caused by COVID-19, it is premature to conclude that it will provide benefit across patients with advanced lung disease due to the very early and limited use of this agent in COVID-19 at this time.” 

Drugmaker AstraZeneca is speeding toward a clinical trial to evaluate Calquence's large-scale effectiveness in treating coronavirus patients. 

Since ventilators will be covering many of the patient's mouths, giving them Calquence in capsule form would be difficult. That's why AstraZeneca is suggesting that doctors administer the drug through a tube using a Coca-Cola-based solution. The company says soda's acidity can effectively break down the drug's powder.

AstraZeneca is also taking advantage of compassionate use rules to supply Calquence to the US Oncology Network to treat coronavirus patients. The rules allow drugs still undergoing trials to be used on people who are critically ill.

“This is not a moment where continuing the status quo is acceptable. With a mortality rate of 50% among critically ill patients, every rational idea needs to be evaluated quickly,” Jeff Sharman, the medical director of hematology research for the US Oncology Network, told Forbes. “Many of the things being done for patients suffering from COVID-19 are done off label with far less scientific rationale.”

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A drug normally used to treat blood cancer may be able to also help fight coronavirus, according to Forbes.Researchers at the National Cancer Institute gave Calquence to a small group of late-stage coronavirus patients ...
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Tuesday, 14 April 2020 06:05 PM
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