New drug treatments for COVID-19

More good news in fight against COVID-19 pandemic !

Steroids were previously proven to be effective against severe Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. The steroids are believed to work by dampening the inflammation caused by coronavirus.

Dexamethasone and Prednisolone are the commonly used steroids.

Now two other drugs have been reported to work in COVID-19 infection. (yet to be published).

Both the anti-inflammatory drugs are not entirely new drugs as they are already routinely used for treatment of various arthritis.

The BBC reports: “The anti-inflammatory medications, given via a drip, save an extra life for every 12 treated, say researchers who have carried out a trial in NHS intensive care units”.

The two drugs “tocilizumab and sarilumab” may become available for treatment of severe COVID-19 shortly.

All these additional drug treatments are needed ONLY for severe Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Mild COVID-19 infections do NOT need these drug treatments.

References . BBC news. Two more life-saving Covid drugs discovered. By Michelle Roberts. Health editor, BBC News online. Published 7 Jan 2021.

BBC news. Coronavirus: Dexamethasone proves first life-saving drug. By Michelle Roberts. Health editor, BBC News online. Published 16 June 2020

BBC News. Tocilizumab: Arthritis drug may treat severe Covid. By James Gallagher. Health and science correspondent. Published 19 November 2020

BMJ. Dexamethasone in management of covid -19. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2648 (Published 03 July 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m2648

BMJ. Rapid Recommendations. A living WHO guideline on drugs for covid-19. BMJ 2020; 370 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m3379 (Published 04 September 2020). Cite this as: BMJ 2020;370:m3379

BMJ. Covid-19: Arthritis drugs improve survival in intensive care patients, shows study
BMJ 2021; 372 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.n61 (Published 08 January 2021)
Cite this as: BMJ 2021;372:n61

eMC. Sarilumab is a human monoclonal antibody selective for the interleukin-6 (IL-6) receptor, produced in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells by recombinant DNA technology. (Sarilumab, administered as a subcutaneous injection is routinely used for treatment of arthritis and is not an entirely new drug).

eMC. Tocilizumab is a recombinant humanized, anti-human monoclonal antibody of the immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) sub-class directed against soluble and membrane-bound interleukin 6 receptors. (Tocilizumab, as a intravenous or subcutaneous formulation, is routinely used for treatment of various arthritis and is also not an entirely new drug).

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and the authors views are not in way intended to be a substitute for professional advice.

New oral medication approved for Prostate Cancer

Advanced Prostate cancer can be successfully controlled for many years by hormone therapy.

Until now, the hormone therapy, which is widely used widely used, involved either hormone injections or hormone implants.

The FDA in USA has recently approved a new novel oral medication for prostate cancer. It acts quickly and has been proven to be highly active. It is taken as a daily oral medication. It is reasonably well tolerated.

It is not known when the medication would be approved in UK and Europe.

References

(1) NEJM. Oral Relugolix for Androgen-Deprivation Therapy in Advanced Prostate Cancer

(2) FDA approval. FDA approves relugolix for advanced prostate cancer.

(3) Information about Relugolix. FDA: HIGHLIGHTS OF PRESCRIBING INFORMATION. and FULL PRESCRIBING INFORMATION.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please DO consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and may change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Cancer treatment delays during the pandemic

The Staff at National Health Service in UK are doing an admirable job during the pandemic. In the particular, the frontline staff (“patient-facing”) are showing great courage in face of great difficulties and are primarily driven by altruism.

But the pressures of pandemic means many routine scans and hospital clinic appointments have been cancelled particularly during the first wave. There is a great worry about delayed diagnosis of cancer and delayed treatment of cancer.

A paper in BMJ reports that cancer patients survival can be significantly compromised.

But, as with everything else in life, things are not always what they look like at first impression. Even things that are logical and common sense at first glance do not turn out to be simple and clear.

Firstly, delays and cancellations of scans paradoxically could have psychologically benefited some cancer patients . This might seem counterintuitive or even an outrageous statement.

But there are some cancers which are being over diagnosed. A Cancer diagnosis does not always mean a death sentence. Some cancers do not cause problems for a long time or never in the life time of a person. These cancers do not need to be diagnosed promptly. Not being diagnosed with these cancers prevents the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis. This “over diagnosis” would be expectedly less during pandemic.

Secondly, treatment delays could be caused by a cancer that is advanced and the need for time consuming additional investigations and procedures. Sometimes delays are caused by patients needing to see many medical specialists for the treatment. So it’s the aggressive cancer and the complex patient care that would cause the delay and is responsible for poor outcome rather than the delay by itself.

Read the BMJ article and make your views known.

Mortality due to cancer treatment delay: systematic review and meta-analysis
BMJ 2020; 371 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m4087 (Published 04 November 2020)
Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4087

Overdiagnosis in Cancer
H. Gilbert Welch, William C. Black
JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 102, Issue 9, 5 May 2010, Pages 605–613, https://doi.org/10.1093/jnci/djq099

Disparities in head and neck cancer: assessing delay in treatment initiation
Urjeet A Patel et al. Laryngoscope. 2012 Aug.

Khorana AA, Tullio K, Elson P, Pennell NA, Grobmyer SR, Kalady MF, et al. (2019) . Time to initial cancer treatment in the United States and association with survival over time: An observational study. PLoS ONE 14(4): e0215108. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0215108

A highly effective treatment for secondary brain cancer in some Lung cancer patients

Brain secondaries from many primary cancer is always difficult to treat.

Particularly brain secondaries from Lung cancer patients can be quite difficult to treat.

Whole Brain Radiotherpy was widely used in past to treat brain secondaries in Lung cancer patients until 2016.

In 2016, QUARTZ study reported that Radiotherapy provided“ little additional clinically significant benefit for this patient group”.

So very few treatment options existed for this group of patients.

So it’s reassuring to see that a new drug was found to be highly active in lung cancer patients with brain secondaries.

Data presented at ESMO ( European Society of Medical Oncology) shows that the Lorlatinib showed a staggering 82% response rate in a small sub-group of patients.

References 1. Dexamethasone and supportive care with or without whole brain radiotherapy in treating patients with non-small cell lung cancer with brain metastases unsuitable for resection or stereotactic radiotherapy (QUARTZ): results from a phase 3, non-inferiority, randomised trial. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)30825-X/fulltext

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Immunotherapy not superior to Chemotherapy in 1st line treatment of bladder cancer

Immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of many advanced cancers such Skin cancer Melanoma and Kidney cancers.

Immunotherapy is a standard treatment for 2nd line treatment of bladder cancer.

Two recent trials presented at ESMO virtual meeting explored the use of immunotherapy in 1st line setting. (Pembrolizumab and Durvalumab).

Immunotherapy alone, or in combination with Chemotherapy was not superior even in patients selected by markers thought to favour immunotherapy alone.

For most bladder cancer patients immunotherapy remains a excellent 2nd line option or as a maintenance treatment option.

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you. The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of drafting the blog and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Can you get Coronavirus infection more than once?

If you are one of the unlucky ones to have already been infected with Coronavirus infection but recovered from it, can you become unlucky again and get another Coronavirus infection later this year ?

Unfortunately, the answer is a YES.

Some Viral infections can sometimes lead to life long immunity. For example, most people who had chicken pox as a child tend to have lifelong immunity and it would be uncommon to get chicken pox again. (except in some circumstances).

But infection with ‘Coronavirus causing COVID-19’ doesn’t seem led to long lasting immunity or resistance to a second Coronavirus infection.

A Newspaper report on a study by a team from King’s College London suggests that susceptibility to a second infection may occur as short as 3 months in some patients. This because the level of antibodies produced by the immune system after first infection start to fade away within a few months in some patients.

If confirmed, this is probably one of the most worrying news during this pandemic.

This study result could also affect Vaccine development and how frequently it may need to be administered.

References

Guardian Newspaper: Coronavirus outbreak. Immunity to Covid-19 could be lost in months, UK study suggests. Ian Sample. Science editor. @iansample. Sun 12 Jul 2020 17.31 BST

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Chloroquine not useful for treating or preventing Coronavirus infections

Randomised Study is the considered as the gold standard for trials.

Placebos are dummy pills . Placebos are inactive drugs that look like the real drug but are essentially sugar coated dummy pills.

Trials which involve a placebo vs active drug comparison are considered one of the best trials for some clinical situations.

A “randomised trial” involving “Chloroquine ” and “placebo ” has been published in NEJM .

A randomised trial suggests Chloroquine is not better than a placebo in treatment of COVID.

Another randomised trial suggests, Hydroxycloroquine is not useful for prevention of COVID-19.

In summary, Hydroxycloroquine is not useful either as COVID-19 treatment or as a COVID-19 preventative drug as advocates in certain countries.

Please Note : Chloroquine and HydroxyChloroquine are different drugs but have broadly similar effects.

References

1. Guardian newspaper: Coronavirus outbreak. Hydroxychloroquine no better than placebo, Covid-19 study finds.

2. NEJM. https://www.nejm.org/

3. BMJ India Correspondent. Covid-19: Doctors criticise Indian research agency for recommending hydroxychloroquine prophylaxis. BMJ2020;369:m2170. doi:10.1136/bmj.m2170 pmid:32471832.

4. BMJ news: Covid-19: Hydroxychloroquine does not benefit hospitalised patients, UK trial finds. BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2263 (Published 08 June 2020)

5. BMJ news. Covid-19: Hydroxychloroquine was ineffective as postexposure prophylaxis, study finds. BMJ 2020; 369 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.m2242 (Published 05 June 2020)

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Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only and do check the the sources where cited. Please consult your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant to you.

The views expressed in this blog represent the author’s views held at the time of publication and is likely to change overtime, particularly when new evidence comes to light. The blog is not necessarily endorsed by any organisation the author is associated with and views are not substitute for professional advice.

Melanoma Skin cancers: significant improvement in life expectancy with immunotherapy

Advanced melanoma skin cancers used to carry a dismal prognosis.

Data presented at Barcelona European Cancer Congress ( ESMO) shows the prognosis has improved remarkably in the recent years.

Fifty percent of patients are now alive for at-least five years. It is quite a remarkable achievement for immunotherapy.

References

1. ESMO press release. One in Two Patients with Metastatic Melanoma Alive after Five Years with Combination Immunotherapy [ESMO 2019 Press Release].

2.BBC News. Skin cancer: Half of people surviving advanced melanoma. By James Gallagher. Health and science correspondent, BBC News

Disclaimer: Please note- This blog is NOT medical advice. This blog is purely for information only. See your own doctor to discuss concerns and options relevant for you.