Treating severe Covid-19 patients with an anticancer drug may reduce mortality and speed up recovery, a new study suggests.
According to a small clinical study, published in the journal Nature Communications, the drug called bevacizumab may be beneficial for Covid-19 patients. “Our findings suggest that bevacizumab plus standard care is highly beneficial for patients with severe Covid-19 and should be considered as a potential first-line therapeutic regimen for this group,” said researcher Yihai Cao from the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden.
Bevacizumab is a medication that has been used to treat various types of cancer since 2004. It works by slowing the formation of new blood vessels by inhibiting a growth factor known as VEGF. Many patients with severe Covid-19 have elevated levels of VEGF as well as symptoms associated with this marker, including excess fluid and disorganized blood vessels in the lungs. Against this background, the researchers designed a clinical trial to investigate the effect of combining bevacizumab with standard care for treating patients with severe Covid-19.
For the study, the team recruited twenty-six confirmed Covid-19 patients with symptoms such as difficulty breathing, low blood oxygen levels and pneumonia. They were retrospectively matched with 26 patients of similar characteristics who received standard care at the same hospitals in roughly the same time period and thus served as the control group.
The recruits received standard care plus a single low dose of about 7.5 mg/kg bevacizumab, which markedly improved blood oxygen levels within 24 hours compared to the control group. By the end of the 28-day follow-up period, 92 per cent of the bevacizumab-treated patients no longer needed the same level of oxygen support as before the trial began, compared with an improvement rate of 62 per cent for the controls. None of the bevacizumab-treated patients died and 17 (65 per cent) improved so much that they were able to leave the hospital within the follow-up period. In the control group, three died and only 46 per cent were discharged within 28 days. The drug also shortened the duration of oxygen-support to a median of nine days compared with 20 for the standard care group.