WHO to test efficacy of anti-cancer drug vs. COVID-19

Published October 16, 2020, 4:00 PM

by Analou de Vera

The World Health Organization (WHO) will test the efficacy of a cancer drug against COVID-19 after four potential treatment options have been found to have “little or no effect” in treating the disease.

Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire
Health Assistant Secretary Maria Rosario S. Vergeire (PCOO / MANILA BULLETIN)

The WHO has already included acalabrutinib in its Solidarity Trials for Therapeutics, a global initiative that aims to find an effective treatment for COVID-19, said Health Secretary Maria Rosario Vergeire.

“About two weeks ago, dinagdag ng WHO yung gamot na acalabrutinib, this is a chemotherapeutic regimen na isa na po sya sa idadagdag natin sa treatment arm ng WHO Solidarity trial [About two weeks ago, the WHO added the drug acalabrutinib in its treatment arm of the Solidarity Trial],” said Vergeire in an online forum.

Vergeire said that the country “(has) yet to receive the shipment” of the cancer drug from the WHO.

According to the US National Institutes of Health website, the acalabrutinib is mainly designed to “treat adults with chronic lymphocytic leukemia or small lymphocytic lymphoma.”

The WHO reported on Friday that antiviral drug remdesivir and three other medicines have no substantial effect in treating COVID-19 patients.

“Remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, lopinavir/ritonavir and interferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on 28-day mortality or the in-hospital course of COVID-19 among hospitalized patients,” the WHO said.

“The global platform of the Solidarity Trial is ready to rapidly evaluate promising new treatment options,” it added.

Vergeire explained that the global initiative is an “open study.”

“The design of the protocol is open, it’s an open study. Ibig sabihin kapag dumating tayo doon sa point na ang isang gamot ay matagpuan or makapagbigay ng ebidensya base sa doon sa mga nakukuha nating resulta sa mga pasyenteng binibigyan nito—na hindi sya effective at saka nakakapagbigay sya ng more harm than good, pwedeng itigil ang mga gamot na iyan during the course of the trial and pwede din tayong magdagdag ng specific treatment arms, [The design of the protocol is open, it’s an open study. This means that when we get to a point where a drug is found to be not effective or causes more harm than good, then it can be stopped during the course of the trial and we can add other treatment arms]”she said.

The Health official said that they are set to give an update on the initial results of the WHO Solidarity Trial for Therapeutics being conducted in the country by Monday, October 19.

“Expect by Monday, we can give you updates already dito sa initial results, hindi lang sa Pilipinas pero sa buong mundo po iyan [not only in the Philippines but also worldwide],” said Vergeire.