Investigators at the university hospital of Ghent and the Flemish Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) have commenced a clinical trial assessing the drug Leukine to identify if it could be useful in the treatment of COVID-19 patients. The Belgium-based investigators hope the use of this approved drug can reduce escalated cases leading to intensive care where the probability of death gets much higher.
What is Leukine?
Known as Sargramostim, it is a recombinant granulocyte macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF) that functions as an immunostimulatory. Hence as published by VIB, it is a copy of a growth factor and is produced by the human body during infections. Approved since 1991 and used mainly on patients recovering from chemotherapy, it has been found to aid the body to promote lung repair.
The drug is used to apply to lung cells known as alveolar macrophages which are viciously attacked by SARS-CoV-2. According to the report, they note, “We hope to be able to reverse that process by administering Leukine via a nebulizer (creates mist which is then inhaled by the patient). If alveolar macrophages can work normally again, the lung repairs faster and hopefully we can prevent the patient from landing in intensive care.”
Focus on the Alveoli
While researchers and clinical investigators work around the clock on the development of a vaccine (which will probably take at least a year), clinicians are concentrating on caring for COVID-19 patients now. Some patients barely feel it while others get incredibly ill at rapid speed, reports Professor Bart Lambrecht. And problematically, once a patient is in intensive care other complications can arise such as kidney failure, liver problems or issues with blood and of course the well-known dangerous respiratory issues that can turn fatal quickly.
The teams at Ghent and VIB are looking at drugs that can help protect the lungs with an emphasis on the alveoli (the air sacs that are clustered throughout the lungs and which are where the blood is oxygenated prior to be sent out into the body) and those that combat fever professor Lambrecht noted to in a recent Brussels Times article. The goal is to do all that is possible to prevent people from turning up in intensive care in the first place.
The Clinical Trial
The trial started last week in Ghent University Hospital and will be extended to the Sint-Jan hospital in Bruges. Research teams in Italy and Germany are interested in joining the study reports the Brussels-based press.
About the Flemish Research Centers
Ghent University Hospital is one of the largest hospitals in Belgium. Closely linked to Ghent University, both the hospital and the university are autonomous entities of the Flemish Government. The hospital has more than 1,000 beds and around 6,000 employees.
The Flemish Institute for Biotechnology is located in Flanders, Belgium, and was founded by the Flemish government in 1995. Its main objective is to strengthen the excellence of Flemish life sciences research and to transfer results into economic growth. VIB spends about 80% of its budget on research activities, while another 12% is spent on technology transfer and the stimulation of new business. VIB spends about 2% on socio-economic activities.
Call to Action: Professor Bart Lambrecht would be a good contact for other researchers to inquire about this approach.