Professor Dr. Andreas Neubauer and his team from the Marburg University Medical center is raising hope for a COVID-19 cure. He tested, with success, the cancer drug ruxolitinib for the first time to cure a patient suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) after infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Prof. Neubauer and his colleagues report on the successfully treated case in the scientific journal Leukemia, in the article “Ruxolitinib for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 induced acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).”
The German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices has now approved a clinical trial where the researchers hope to investigate further the use of ruxolitinib for the treatment of COVID-19-associated ARDS.
Professor Dr. Andreas Neubauer teaches hematology and oncology at the University of Marburg. Since 2009, he has headed the Carreras Leukemia Center at Marburg University Hospital and is the Vicepresident of the Deutsche Jose Carreras Leukämie Stiftung.
“We knew from Chinese publications that a so-called cytokine storm characterizes patients with a severe and even fatal course of the disease,” Neubauer says. “During a cytokine storm, the body is flooded with substances that stimulate the immune system.” This overreaction of the body’s defense system damages the tissue — making it all the easier for the invading virus to spread.
Neubauer thought that the patient might respond to ruxolitinib, a drug initially used in cancer treatment. It inhibits enzymes in the body involved in excessive inflammatory reactions. “We suggested to our colleagues who were treating the patients with COVID-19 that the cancer drug might be able to prevent the life-threatening effects brought on by the inflammatory damage to lung tissue,” Neubauer says.