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Blood cancer and pancreatic disease drugs to be tested on UK Covid-19 patients

By Nilima Marshall
Drugs used in blood cancer and pancreatic disease treatments will be tested on Covid-19 patients as part of two new clinical trials being launched in the UK.

The trial for camostat, which is used in treating inflammation of the pancreas, will start on Friday, while the trial for ruxolitinib, used in certain types of blood cancer treatments, is set to begin next week.

Manufactured by Novartis Pharmaceuticals, ruxolitinib belongs to a class of medication known as JAK inhibitors, which help in reducing harmful inflammation.

Meanwhile camostat, which is licensed in Japan and South Korea to treat pancreatic disease, has been shown in the lab to prevent Covid-19 from entering human cells.

The researchers from King’s College London and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, who are involved in the ruxolitinib trial, believe the anti-inflammatory drug might help patients with severe Covid-19 reduce hyperinflammation – a condition that can send the body into shock and damage multiple organs.

Initially, 19 patients will participate in the trial based at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and if the first phase is successful, the researchers will proceed to the next stage with 59 patients.

Dr Shahram Kordasti, senior lecturer at King’s College London and the scientific lead on the ruxolitinib trial, said: “We will use cutting edge methods to identify the best time and most suitable patients for therapy and to evaluate the immune response following therapy.”

Meanwhile in the camostat trial, biotech company Latus Therapeutics is working with experts from the Universities of Oxford and Edinburgh as well as Cancer Research UK’s Centre for Drug Development (CDD) to test the drug’s effectiveness in stopping Covid-19 infection from getting worse.

Dr Bobojon Nazarov, founder of Latus Therapeutics, said: “Camostat belongs to the only class of drug that has a strong mechanistic basis for blocking entry of the virus into human cells.

“We believe this drug could be used to reduce the severity of Covid-19 infection, providing much needed time for the body’s immune system to recognise the virus and destroy it.”

The camostat trial, also known as SPIKE1 trial, will take place in the community and will recruit up to 390 patients over a one-year period.

Those receiving treatment will take daily 200mg doses of the tablet and will be assessed daily by telephone and self-report their temperature and blood oxygen levels.

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