In a recent study published in Nature Communications, researchers found drugs typically used to treat prostate cancer could be explored for treating patients with COVID-19.
They found that the treatment, a type of testosterone-blocker, also reduced the ability of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus to infect lung cells in the lab.
The work is part of larger efforts to find existing drugs that can block COVID-19 by reducing the ability of the virus to enter cells.
The team says the study adds to a growing body of evidence from groups around the world, supporting further clinical trials to assess the efficacy of the drugs, called anti-androgens, in the treatment of patients with COVID-19.
The study is from Imperial College London and the University of Essex. One author is Professor Charlotte Bevan.
SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, has been shown to attack multiple organs in the body but is most destructive to the lungs.
In the study, researchers focused on one of the proteins used by the virus to enter lung cells, called TMPRSS2, to see if reducing levels could block infection.
Male sex hormones, or androgens, are known to increase levels of TMPRSS2 in several tissues, most notably in the prostate.
But drugs used to manage prostate cancer can block androgens, so countering the increase in TMPRSS2 and potentially offering a new treatment option to explore for COVID-19.
The team found that the androgen-blocking drug enzalutamide—a well-tolerated drug widely used in advanced prostate cancer—reduced TMPRSS2 levels in lab cultures of human lung cells.
Importantly, they found that the treatment significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 entry and infection in lung cells.
The researchers say their study adds to a growing body of evidence from groups around the world, supporting further clinical trials to assess the efficacy of anti-androgens as a potential treatment for COVID-19.
This study not only supports further clinical investigation of these prostate cancer drugs but suggests other drugs researchers can test that could be useful in the COVID-19 effort.
Drugs that are tried-and-tested and approved in other diseases have the advantage that they can be re-purposed in this way relatively quickly.
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For more information about COVID and your health, please see recent studies about common drug for heart disease may reduce COVID-19 risk and results showing that many Americans take immune-weakening drugs that may lower COVID vaccine response.
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