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News > News from the Worthian Network > Worthian plays key role in COVID-19 drug trial

Worthian plays key role in COVID-19 drug trial

Coronavirus trial examines drug for rare blood cancers
Coronavirus trial examines drug for rare blood cancers
Earlier this year Desmond Choy G'05 left The University of Hong Kong to join a research group at Kings College London as a Bioinformatician in Immunology to look at how different treatments work on blood cancer patients. Last week his team switched to a vital new trial to see if the drug Ruxolitinib, usually used to fight rare blood cancers, could be used to treat the more severe coronavirus cases and reduce the need for intensive care treatment.

As Desmond explained, "what kills patients is not the coronavirus itself, but that the virus causes the person's own immune system to go haywire causing hyperinflammation in the heart, lungs, etc., and eventually leads to organ failure. This is called a 'cytokine storm' and makes the clinical outlook quite similar to a certain type of blood cancer called myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN) which is why our group got involved in the research." Ruxolitinib works by blocking the signal required to produce more cytokines and therefore reducing inflammation, so may be key in the treatment of COVID-19.

Desmond's colleagues have started collecting patient samples and run experiments on them, whilst he writes and uses computer programmes to analyse the data from home. Desmond added,"we are one of the small number of labs that is allowed to reopen because we directly work on coronavirus. It's all moving at a great pace at the moment and we're expecting lots of samples in the coming weeks".

We wish Desmond and all his team the best of luck for a successful outcome to the trial.

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