KU Medical Center rolls out new study to test treatment for mild COVID-19 patients

Posted at 7:18 AM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 11:00:38-04

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The bad cases of COVID-19 often end up in headlines, but doctors say for every hospitalization, there are several outpatient cases with mild symptoms. Currently, there is no treatment or medication for those patients.

Tuesday, researchers at the University of Kansas Medical Center (KUMC) will begin a clinical trial to test how a new treatment helps those people with mild COVID-19 symptoms recover. It’s called ACTIV-2.

KUMC is testing a monoclonal antibody owned by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company. Researchers will give participants one injection and monitor their progress.

Dr. Mario Castro, the vice chair for clinical and translational research at KUMC, said a monoclonal antibody has a lot of the antibodies found in convalescent plasma doctors have been using as a treatment for COVID-19, but is more pure and is created in a lab. Antibodies fight off infections.

He’s hopeful the treatment makes a difference.

“Right now, we have no treatment for you. We say, ‘Go home, monitor your temperature, monitor yourself, we have no treatment for you.’ This study will help us address that,” Castro said.

Later this week, KUMC hopes to begin a clinical trial for a COVID-19 vaccine. Castro said the lab is waiting for one last approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It will test the effectiveness of a vaccine from AstraZeneca as part of the Operation Warp Speed initiative to find a vaccine as fast as possible.

Castro said the vaccine study will focus on how the vaccine works in the hardest hit demographics, such as the elderly and minority communities.

Already, KUMC has received more than 7,000 applications from people willing to participate. Castro said that is a huge number, and nearly seven times the number of slots his team has available.

“There is a lot of interest in a vaccine,” Castro said. “People are getting tired of these face masks, walking around the rest of our lives with these things and we want to move back to our normal life. This is likely the only way we can get there: through an effective vaccine.”

And KUMC is looking for more participants to join a clinical trial currently in progress. It’s called the HERO study. It is part of a nationwide effort to test the effectiveness of Hydroxychloroquine on preventing healthcare workers from getting infected with COVID-19.

Castro said this is different than a vaccine because Hydroxychloroquine does not build antibodies like a vaccine. He said the drug is used to prevent people from getting diseases like malaria and wants to find out if it can have similar preventative effects on COVID-19. Castro said the drug would never replace personal protective equipment while working around COVID-positive patients.

Castro is a pulmonologist by trade and said the goal of this study is to protect healthcare workers so that hospitals can stay open and fully-staffed in order to treat patients.

“We [healthcare workers] are still at risk everyday,” Castro said. “When a patient is crashing and burning and we’re resuscitating that patient, or helping that patient, all of a sudden, we’re putting ourselves at risk to acquire the infection.”

Castro said he is looking for roughly 500 to 600 more healthcare workers to volunteer in the HERO trial. Doctors, nurses, janitors, cafeteria employees, respiratory therapists, just about anyone working in a hospital setting around COVID-19 patients is eligible to participate.

For information on joining the HERO project, visit the website or call Maggie at 913-752-7911.

To inquire about joining the vaccine trial, call Shelby at 913-574-3006 or visit this website and enter “KUMC” as your site when prompted.

For information about the ACTIV-2 study, contact the study coordinator, Luigi Boccardi, at 913-588-4022.