Cancer drug may treat severe COVID-19, study finds thumbnail

Cancer drug may treat severe COVID-19, study finds

Patients with severe COVID-19 who received the cancer drug imatinib were less likely to die than those not treated with it, a study presented Wednesday found.

Nine percent of patients hospitalized with the virus who were treated with imatinib died within 90 days, the data released during the international conference of the American Thoracic Society showed.

Of those treated with a placebo, or sham treatment that provides no clinical benefit and used in clinical trials for comparison, 17% died within 90 days, the researchers said.

Patients treated with the drug, given as an oral tablet twice daily, also spent an average of five fewer days on mechanical ventilation to maintain breathing than those given the placebo, according to researchers.

“In this ongoing pandemic, [imatinib treatment] could result in lower mortality rates and shorter intensive care admissions,” study co-author Erik Duijvelaar said in a press release.

Three other clinical trials currently are evaluating the effectiveness of imatinib for COVID-19, said Duijvelaar, a doctoral candidate at Amsterdam University Medical Centers in the Netherlands.

The findings are based on the experiences of 385 Dutch patients hospitalized with COVID-19, the researchers said.

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