Roswell Park leading new COVID-19 treatment approach

Igor Puzanov, MD, MSci, FACP, of Roswell Park
Photo credit Igor Puzanov, MD, MSci, FACP, of Roswell Park

Buffalo, N.Y. (WBEN) - In what is described as a collaborative clinical trial, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center is working to make a new treatment option available to local patients diagnosed with COVID-19. Roswell confirms for WBEN it is the lead center in the study.

The study, led by Igor Puzanov, MD, MSci, FACP, of Roswell Park, will allow eligible patients at four local medical facilities to participate in a large national study of the anti-inflammatory agent sarilumab.

Dr. Puzanov is Director of the Early Phase Clinical Trials Program and Chief of Melanoma at Roswell Park and overall Principal Investigator on the trial, and has done extensive work with a similar drug, tocilizumab.

Some of the ways that COVID-19 affects the body are similar to how cancer and auto-immune conditions affect the body, and Puzanov says we can draw on what we know from those fields to address the pressing challenge of how best to treat the novel coronavirus.

The local trial will be part of a large national clinical trial sponsored by Regeneron, the company that makes sarilumab. The drug, also known as Kevzara, is an antibody that inhibits the interleukin-6 (IL-6) pathway by binding and blocking the IL-6 receptor. While it has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, experts believe sarilumab may help to prevent or control the overactive inflammatory response in the lungs of patients who are severely or critically ill with COVID-19 — conclusions based in part on preliminary data from a study in China using tocilizumab.

Co-Principal Investigator Gene Morse, PharmD, of UB’s Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will oversee protocol activities for three additional sites invited to participate in this study.

The study is expected to enroll quickly and may only be open to new patients for a brief period and Roswell Park is also working on bringing additional studies for COVID-19 to our community