Cancer drug may aid in treatment of COVID-19, study says

Coronavirus

A rendering of the COVID-19 vaccine. (Getty Images)

(NEXSTAR) – In a study published Monday in the journal Science, researchers from UCSF and Mount Sinai touted results that demonstrated the antiviral efficacy of plitidepsin, a drug approved in Australia for the treatment of multiple myeloma.

Scientists say plitidepsin may be as much as 27.5 times more effective than remdesivir in treating COVID-19. In 2020 the FDA issued an emergency-use authorization for remdesivir, an antiviral drug, for COVID-19 treatment.

In two pre-clinical trial models of COVID-19, plitidepsin showed a 100-percent reduction in “viral replication in the lungs and demonstrated an ability to reduce lung inflammation,” according to a press release.

Plitidepsin works by targeting the host protein rather than the viral protein, meaning the SARS-COV-2 virus will be unable to build resistance through mutation.

The drug therefore appears to be effective against the newly identified, more contagious B.1.1.7 variant that first arose in the U.K.

“The preclinical data published today showing increased potency compared to remdesivir,” Nevan Krogan, a study co-author, said in a statement, “and in conjunction with recent early clinical data showing promise in COVID-19 patients as reported by the drug’s manufacturer, highlight plitidepsin should be further evaluated as a COVID-19 therapy.”

Plitidepsin may show promise in treating a broad spectrum of antiviral infections as well, especially those with no clinically approved treatment options, the study authors said.

Before plitidepsin can be used widespread, it must undergo a series of clinical trials, which often takes years. This could be sped up given the urgent need for effective COVID-19 treatments.

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