MONDAY, July 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Immunotherapy for cancer patients with COVID-19 appears safe, a preliminary study suggests.
The treatments activate a person's immune system against cancer.
Researchers have been wary, because many COVID-19 complications result from an overactive immune response that leads to increased production of proteins called cytokines that can cause issues such as respiratory failure.
"In patients with both COVID-19 and cancer, our team thought that immunotherapy might increase the immune system response, which could already be overactive because of the COVID-19 infection," researcher Layne Weatherford said in a University of Cincinnati news release. He is a postdoctoral fellow at the university.
For this ongoing study, the researchers are using blood samples from cancer patients with COVID-19. They are looking at how the therapy affects the immune cells of COVID-19 patients, as well as patients with both COVID-19 and cancer.
Preliminary data show that a diabetes drug, metformin, can reduce production of cytokine proteins in COVID-19 patients.
More research is needed, but the researchers said it may be possible to treat COVID-19 complications with metformin or a similar drug.
Weatherford noted that patients with cancer are more susceptible to COVID-19 as well as severe complications from it.
The findings were to be presented Monday at a virtual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. Studies presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
For more on COVID-19, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.