Cancer and transplant patients with COVID-19 have a higher risk of developing severe and even fatal respiratory diseases, especially as they may be treated with immune-suppressive or immune-stimulating drugs. This review focuses on the effects of these drugs on host immunity against COVID-19.
Using Ovid MEDLINE, we reviewed current evidence for immune-suppressing or -stimulating drugs: cytotoxic chemotherapy, low-dose steroids, tumour necrosis factorα (TNFα) blockers, interlukin-6 (IL-6) blockade, Janus kinase (JAK) inhibitors, IL-1 blockade, mycophenolate, tacrolimus, anti-CD20 and CTLA4-Ig.
89 studies were included. Cytotoxic chemotherapy has been shown to be a specific inhibitor for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus in in vitro studies, but no specific studies exist as of yet for COVID-19. No conclusive evidence for or against the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in the treatment of COVID-19 patients is available, nor is there evidence indicating that TNFα blockade is harmful to patients in the context of COVID-19. COVID-19 has been observed to induce a pro-inflammatory cytokine generation and secretion of cytokines, such as IL-6, but there is no evidence of the beneficial impact of IL-6 inhibitors on the modulation of COVID-19. Although there are potential targets in the JAK-STAT pathway that can be manipulated in treatment for coronaviruses and it is evident that IL-1 is elevated in patients with a coronavirus, there is currently no evidence for a role of these drugs in treatment of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to challenging decision-making about treatment of critically unwell patients. Low-dose prednisolone and tacrolimus may have beneficial impacts on COVID-19. The mycophenolate mofetil picture is less clear, with conflicting data from pre-clinical studies. There is no definitive evidence that specific cytotoxic drugs, low-dose methotrexate for auto-immune disease, NSAIDs, JAK kinase inhibitors or anti-TNFα agents are contraindicated. There is clear evidence that IL-6 peak levels are associated with severity of pulmonary complications.
Ecancermedicalscience. 2020 Mar 27*** epublish ***
Beth Russell, Charlotte Moss, Gincy George, Aida Santaolalla, Andrew Cope, Sophie Papa, Mieke Van Hemelrijck
Translational Oncology and Urology Research, King's College London, London, UK., Guy's and St. Thomas NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.