UCSF Researchers Say They May Have Found a Cancer Drug That Kills COVID-19

While vaccines are slowly but surely being rolled out across the nation, the search for a COVID-19 treatment and cure still remains front and center 

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A UC San Francisco researcher says his lab team may have found promising hope in a cancer drug.  

“We’re hoping this gets approved quickly and it can be used in this world war fight against this virus,” said Nevan Krogen, professor and director at the Quantitative Biosciences Institute at UCSF.

The drug is called Aplidin. Currently, it is approved in Australia to treat multiple myeloma, a type of blood cancer. The drug isn't yet approved to treat COVID-19 but is part of a trial involving a few dozen people in Spain. 

“There are treatments out there, preventive measures that look very promising but we need more weapons in our arsenal to fight this virus,” Krogen said.

Krogen says his team started exploring Aplidin's use as a treatment for COVID-19 back in March. Instead of looking for a drug that would target the virus, Krogen says his team sought out drugs that would protect key human proteins from being hijacked by the virus. After identifying over 70 drugs and compounds, placing over 20 of them in clinical trials, they found Aplidin was by far the most effective against COVID-19.

“If you’re targeting a human protein, it doesn't matter how much the virus mutates,” Krogen said.

Recently, the team collaborated with a lab in the UK to test the drug against the new variant. Krogen says Aplidin also killed the variant. 

If approved he believes the drug could be crucial to saving lives as more contagious variants of the virus emerge and spread. 

The team says the side effects of this drug among clinical trial participants have been minimal so far. Phase three trials of the drug are being planned in the U.S. and in Spain.

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