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Immunotherapy Safe for Cancer Patients with COVID-19: Study

MONDAY, July 20, 2020 (HealthDay News)

Immunotherapy for cancer patients with COVID-19 appears safe, a preliminary study suggests.

The treatments activate a person’s immune system against cancer.

Researchers have been wary, because many COVID-19 complications result from an overactive immune response that leads to increased production of proteins called cytokines that can cause issues such as respiratory failure.

“In patients with both COVID-19 and cancer, our team thought that immunotherapy might increase the immune system response, which could already be overactive because of the COVID-19 infection,” researcher Layne Weatherford said in a University of Cincinnati news release. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the university.

For this ongoing study, the researchers are using blood samples from cancer patients with COVID-19. They are looking at how the therapy affects the immune cells of COVID-19 patients, as well as patients with both COVID-19 and cancer.

Preliminary data show that a diabetes drug, metformin, can reduce production of cytokine proteins in COVID-19 patients.

More research is needed, but the researchers said it may be possible to treat COVID-19 complications with metformin or a similar drug.

Weatherford noted that patients with cancer are more susceptible to COVID-19 as well as severe complications from it.

The findings were to be presented Monday at a virtual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Studies presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

— Steven Reinberg

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SOURCE: University of Cincinnati, news release, July 20, 2020

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