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AstraZeneca's BTK inhibitor Calquence shows promise in aiding recovery of severe COVID-19 patients

Published on 08/06/20 at 12:40pm

AstraZeneca has revealed more data in its efforts to find an effective therapy for those affected by the novel coronavirus. While the company has placed its primary efforts in the development of the University of Oxford’s vaccine candidate, known as AZD1222, it has now shed light on the possible efficacy of its Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor Calquence (acalabrutinib) in the treatment of severe cases of COVID-19.

It has been theorised that severe cases of COVID-19 arise from the occurrence of a cytokine storm in patients, an overreaction of the immune system in response to the virus. It is thought that BTK inhibitors like Calquence, which target a key protein in inflammation, could help to mediate such extreme reactions.

The findings of this latest study, published in Science Immunology, were harvested from a peer-reviewed study of 19 patients hospitalised with severe COVID-19 with respiratory illness including severe hypoxia and/or inflammation.

It was shown that, of 11 severely affected patients who required oxygen, eight were able to be discharged after receiving a 10-14 day regimen of Calquence and were breathing independently and without support. A further eight patients required mechanical ventilation, and four of these patients were also able to be discharged following the regimen. One of these eight patients unfortunately died as a result of a pulmonary embolism.

“The science supporting investigation of the use of Calquence in patients with severe COVID-19 is strong. The encouraging preliminary data in this case series has informed the initiation of global Phase 2 trials, notably the CALAVI programme,” remarked José Baselga, Executive Vice President, Oncology R&D at AstraZeneca. “We look forward to completing recruitment and obtaining data in these trials as soon as possible to further our understanding of what this potential treatment could mean for patients.”

Calquence is not currently approved anywhere in the world for the treatment of COVID-19, but these latest findings support further investigation into its efficacy in treating the condition.

Matt Fellows

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