AstraZeneca unveils FDA-approved antiretroviral drug for rare cancer

AstraZeneca held a press conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts Tuesday to launch a study called sOnc301-COVID-19, based on results from previous results from a similar phase 3 study in adults with only mild forms of cancer.

The study takes a different tack, though, focusing on patients diagnosed with Grade 2 or 3 COVID-19. In addition to the deaths from COVID-19 that occurred in the older study, there were 30, 9 and 47 cases of severe asbestosis in patients, which saw the spike in incidence rate. AstraZeneca introduced a new line of treatment for COVID-19 patients.

“These results represent a major leap forward in the treatment of COVID-19,” said Alan Stowe, M.D., L.D., Ph.D., vice president, Clinical Development, R&D and Professor of Surgery at Massachusetts General Hospital. “This trial has demonstrated the power of a biologic approach.”

In addition to the COVID-19 patients, 7 of the 28 patients in the older phase 3 study survived longer without COVID-19 than with it. The drug also was more than 80 percent effective at preventing 19 patients from committing suicide.

The study will be the most lucrative for pharmaceutical companies that develop drugs for the extremely rare genetic disorder that caused COVID-19, COVID-20, to grow in cells in the body and cause several deaths in younger adult patients.

“In my 30 years of experience as an oncologist, COVID-19 has changed my life,” said Alan N. Timmins, M.D., the lead investigator on the trial.

In an editorial accompanying the scientific analysis, Timmins wrote that “High priority needs to be given to halting and potentially reversing the cancer.”

In addition to the COVID-19 study, AstraZeneca released results from the jofi-64 trial in patients with endometrial cancer, but this study was not as large as the COVID-19 study. This trial showed the benefit of antiretroviral therapy, also called oral antiretroviral therapy, was not significant and only one-third of the patients were in remission after 24 months.

Endometrial cancer, also known as neoplasia, is a common type of cancer that affects cells in the uterus that line the uterus and ovaries. Common symptoms include abdominal pain, severe bleeding and pain. These symptoms, along with the fact that it occurs in more than one in ten pregnancies, make it a disease of higher priority for treatment.

In October, a drug that is effective at preventing the endometrial cancer cell’s progression received FDA approval, the first approved antiretroviral drug treatment for endometrial cancer and triple-negative breast cancer. Tarceva, a treatment made by Genentech, is the only FDA-approved antiretroviral treatment for breast cancer.

Endometrial cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women in the U.S.

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