A prostate cancer drug could help stop vulnerable people becoming ill with Covid, a study suggests. US researchers at The University of Michigan Medical School tested the effect of a medicine called proxalutamide, a new and promising cancer treatment, on animal cells infected with Covid.
The team found that the drug limited the number of cells the virus invaded.
And when they added another licensed Covid drug, remdesivir, the virus was blocked completely.
Follow-up mice studies found that this drug combination reduced the risk of the internal inflammation that causes severe Covid and also slashed mortality.
A prostate cancer drug could help stop vulnerable people becoming ill with Covid, a study suggests.
Proxalutamide works by blocking an enzyme that helps viral cells enter healthy cells in the lungs and proliferate.
When used for prostate cancer, it blocks the activity of androgens – hormones such as testosterone – that can drive tumour growth.
According to the latest Government data, about 70 people die every week with Covid. At present, roughly 2,200 Britons are hospitalised with the virus – some 79 of which are currently on ventilators.
Several treatments are now available, but they don’t always work for everyone – especially the most vulnerable, including people with blood cancer and organ transplant survivors.
Proxalutamide has been shown in studies to keep disease at bay in two thirds of patients, although it is not yet approved in the UK.
Speaking of the new findings, Arul Chinnaiyan, director of the Michigan Center for Translational Pathology and co-author of the study, said: ‘The thought is that proxalutamide could work as a combined therapy with remdesivir, hitting the virus from multiple angles – a bit like how we use combination therapy for the HIV infection.’
Early on in the pandemic, it was suggested that there were links between the virus and male hormones, given that the majority of deaths were in men.
The experts say their research provides proof of a mysterious link between androgens and the virus – although the connection’s intricacies are not yet fully understood.
Proxalutamide is currently in final-stage clinical trials for prostate cancer and early human trials for Covid.