publication date: May. 22, 2020

COVID-19 Updates

UCLA tests prostate cancer drug for COVID-19 in men

UCLA researchers have launched a phase II trial that uses TMPRSS2, a hormone suppressor commonly used to treat prostate cancer, to improve clinical outcomes for men infected with COVID-19.

The phase II trial will assess whether temporarily suppressing male hormones will reduce the severity of COVID-19 illness—by helping patients get out of the hospital faster, decreasing the need for intubation, and improving mortality. The UCLA-led study is being conducted at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and other VA sites.

“It’s becoming pretty clear that men are more likely than women to die from COVID-19, and we think there is a connection between prostate cancer research and our understanding of COVID-19 research,” principal investigator Matthew Rettig, professor of medicine and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, said in a statement.

Rettig is also the chief of hematology/oncology at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, said in a statement.

Recent data from New York City show that men are infected in greater numbers and are dying at nearly twice the rate of women.

The convergence between prostate cancer research and COVID-19 research begins with the TMPRSS2 protein receptor, which is abnormal in about half of all prostate cancer patients, and plays a role in the development and progression of prostate cancer.

Researchers believe the COVID-19 virus uses TMPRSS2 to enter the lungs and attack lung tissue. The receptor is regulated by male hormones in prostate cancer, and researchers believe it may also be regulated in lung tissue by male hormones. 

In the UCLA-led clinical trial, researchers will use degarelix, an FDA-approved medication, to temporarily shut down the production of TMPRSS2 and block the virus from entering lung tissue.

A link to the research study that provides the scientific underpinnings for this clinical trial can be found here.

Copyright (c) 2020 The Cancer Letter Inc.