Research find possible breakthrough treatment for COVID-19
In early April, the infectious disease department, scientists and researchers at Adventist HealthCare had a question: Could a certain type of drug help treat patients with COVID-19? After careful research, sponsored by the drug’s manufacturer OncoImmune Inc., the answer seems to be yes.
The SACCOVID clinical trial enrolled 203 participants with severe or critical COVID-19. Adventist HealthCare was one of 15 sites that participated in the phase III clinical trial.
Patients treated with SACCOVID exhibited significantly faster recovery and significantly reduced disease progression to death or respiratory failure than those receiving placebo, when used in conjunction with the standard of care (SOC).
In fact, the study found that patients who received SACCOVID compared to those who received a placebo had a:
- 60% better chance to achieve clinical recovery
- Shortened median time to recovery of 6 days, compared to 10 days in the placebo group
- Reduced risk of death or respiratory failure by more than 50%
Now, the Food and Drug Administration is reviewing the clinical study and the safety and efficacy of the drug.
“There are a lot of levels of excitement and gratitude about these results,” says Andrew Catanzaro, MD, director of infectious diseases at Adventist HealthCare. “This drug enhanced our compassionate care for COVID-19 patients because it had such a profound effect. It’s very exciting.”
A novel therapy for a novel coronavirus
COVID-19 is referred to as a novel coronavirus because, quite simply, it’s new; it’s a virus the world had never seen or encountered before late 2019. That novelty is what has made the virus challenging to understand and treat.
Since the beginning of 2020, scientists and researchers have been looking for answers about COVID-19 through clinical studies, asking questions and conducting thoughtful, deliberate research. Among their investigations has been whether drugs approved for other diseases may work for COVID-19. That was the case for the SACCOVID clinical study.
Investigators looked at a checkpoint inhibitor already approved for patients with graft versus host disease, a disorder that sometimes occurs after transplants, when cells from the donor attack the recipient. Checkpoint inhibitors work to calm down a hyperactive immune system.
“When you slow down the immune system, it is able to better focus and get the job done,” explains Dr. Catanzaro.
In the case of COVID-19, that means allowing the body to fight off the virus.
“There is no elegant way to do that in COVID patients,” he says. “There is no antiviral drug. We can use steroids, but we knew we needed to get creative to find an effective and safe way to help patients fighting COVID.”
Seeking answers in science
To Dr. Catanzaro, bringing these novel therapeutics was important for one simple reason — people were dying.
“Healthcare workers don’t just want to stand by and watch people fight this virus. We want to help,” he says. “This is the beginning of using clinical research in a safe and effective fashion to answer questions about a deadly disease.