Although Cancer Research UK is focused on finding treatments for various types of cancer, like many medical charities it has been providing assistance in the national and international effort to fight Covid-19 where it can.

It has now announced that it has launched a clinical trial using an existing medication to see if it is effective at treating patients with Covid-19.

Working with its partners Latus Therapeutics and the University of Edinburgh, it has launched the SPIKE1 trial, which will explore whether a drug called camostat could be an effective treatment for Covid-19 patients. The trial is being funded by LifeArc.

Camostat is already licensed in Japan and South Korea, where it’s used to treat pancreatic disease. As a result, it was able to progress straight to a phase III clinical trial to see if it could be an effective treatment for those with Covid-19.

Dr Bobojon Nazarov, founder of Latus Therapeutics, realised that there were key studies that showed camostat prevented coronavirus from entering the host cell. He worked with scientists from the universities of Oxford and Edinburgh, and then approached the Centre for Drug Development (CDD) at Cancer Research UK.

The team at CDD also saw the potential for camostat to be used to treat Covid-19 and, as a result, adapted their processes and were instrumental in getting the trial started.

Iain Foulkes, executive director of research and innovation at Cancer Research UK, commented: “The charity’s Centre for Drug Development has a strong track record in setting up trials quickly, which is a testament to our sector leading ways of working.”

He added that “the sooner we can find ways to minimise the impact of Covid-19, the more quickly we can more fully return to our life-saving cancer research”.

Dr Nazarov explained that they believe that camostat could help to reduce the severity of Covid-19 in those with symptoms. This would give the body’s immune system time to react to the virus and destroy it. “Unlike finding a vaccine, this drug could be used quickly to help people recover from Covid-19,” he said.

The team are recruiting patients in the community who have Covid-19 symptoms, rather than those who are seriously ill with the virus in hospital.

Earlier in May, the Department of Health & Social Care announced that selected NHS patients would be given remdesivir to help support their recovery in hospital, provided they met certain clinical criteria.

Studies have indicated that the antiviral drug can reduce recovery time from the virus by about four days. Due to limited supplies, it will only be made available to the patients who will derive the greatest benefit from it.

Lord Bethell, minister for innovation, commented: “As we navigate this unprecedented period, we must be on the front foot of the latest medical advancements, while always ensuring patient safety remains a top priority.”

If these drugs are found to be effective at treating those with Covid-19, the next step will be to ensure they are manufactured in sufficient quantities and distributed effectively. If you need assistance with pharmaceutical distribution, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.