University of Los Angeles, California (UCLA) researchers are pursuing COVID-19 via a commonly used method to treat men with prostate cancer in an effort to help drive improved clinical outcomes for individuals afflicted with SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Specially, the Bruin research team teams with the U.S. VA to use a hormone suppressor in a Phase II clinical trial assessing if actually suppressing these male hormones can lessen the severity of COVID-19 as well as help the patient get better faster, reduce the total amount of hospital stay while decreasing the need for intubation all leading to improved mortality.
Males at Greater Risk
The numbers are revealing that males may be at graver risk than females in this pandemic. Hence, Matthew Rettig, MD, professor of medicine and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, commented, “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.”
In fact, as reported by UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center latest news website, recent data from New York City reveals that men not only are infected in greater numbers but die at almost twice the rate of women.
The study will be led by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), as reported by TrialSite News recently.
Hypothesis of the Study
UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center reports that the convergence between prostate cancer research and COVID-19 research commences with TMPRSS2, a protein receptor which turns out to be abnormal in nearly 50% of all prostate cancer patients: it also plays a role in the development and advancement of prostate cancer.
Researchers believe that SARS-CoV-2 uses this receptor to not only enter the lungs but also attack lung tissue. Regulated by male hormones in prostate cancer, this receptor could potentially be regulated in lung tissue by male hormones. The scientific underpinnings for this study was led by a Columbia University research team led by Xinchen Wang with the Institute for Genomic Medicine with the Goldstein Lab.
Dr. Rettig likens it to a “lock and key” analogy in that “If the virus was the key and its receptor is the lock, then the virus inserts into the lock and can gain entry into the lung while the male hormones makes that lock more accessible to the virus. By suppressing the make hormones, its kind of like putting a piece of masking tape over the lock so that the key won’t fit in.”
The Phase II four-month clinical trial will enable the researchers to actually suppress male hormones using the FDA-approved medication degarelix which will temporarily shut down the production of TMPRSS2 and block the virus from entering lung tissue. Dr. Rettig reports, “We’re hoping this will not only help men with COVID-19 get out of the hospital faster, but ultimately, see less men dying from the virus.”
The study will be led by West Los Angeles VA Medical Center in conjunction with UCLA. Other research centers include VA medical centers in New York (Brooklyn and Manhattan) and Washington (Puget Sound). The research sites are leveraging the Prostate Cancer Foundation/VA Network centers of excellence. University of California, Los Angeles will be involved as well by analyzing participant research specimens.
Matthew Rettig, MD, professor of medicine and urology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and member of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, chief of hematology/oncology at the Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
Call to Action: If you know someone that is based in either Los Angeles, New York, or near Puget Sound, Washington, you may consider informing them about this study so they can discuss with their physician. The contact for the study at UCLA is [email protected].