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Clinical trials for drugs to treat COVID-19 now underway


At the same time we are preparing for a surge of COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks, our researchers are hard at work to identify ways to fight the global pandemic. Tufts Medical Center has been selected to take part in two important clinical trials of drugs being tested to combat COVID-19 disease. 

“As with all clinical trials, these studies are restricted to patients who meet specific qualification requirements, as the drugs we are testing are in limited supply,” said Helen Boucher, MD, Chief of the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases. “However, with no approved therapies currently available for COVID-19, we are eager to do our part.” 

The first clinical trial, led by Debra D. Poutsiaka, MD, PhD, Vice Chief for clinical affairs in the Division of Geographic Medicine and Infectious Diseases, will test Remdesivir, an anti-viral agent that was first studied for the treatment of Ebola. In earlier studies, the drug showed potential for interrupting how the coronavirus replicates inside cells, potentially slowing the spread of the disease in patients.  

A second clinical trial of the drug Sarilumab will be directed by Andreas Klein, MD, Associate Chief of the Division of Hematology and Oncology. Sarilumab is a monoclonal antibody that binds to and blocks the receptor for the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6.  The drug is currently used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.  

Typically, clinical trials will take months-to-years to begin recruitment, but due to the urgency for COVID-19 treatments, these clinical trials took only days to get up and running. 

“[Vice President of Research Administration] Susan Blanchard and her team, the Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the Neely Center for Cancer Clinical Research, the IRB and Drs. Poutsiaka and Klein worked around the clock for weeks to get these clinical trials up and running as soon as possible – it is really quite amazing,” commented Dr. Boucher.