As our understanding of COVID-19 progresses, we are working around the clock to ensure our patients receive the high standard of care they have come to expect.
At this present juncture, there is not a standardized therapeutic approach for the treatment of COVID-19. While there are recently published studies that may point toward treatment options, Katherine Mullin, MD, Director of Infection Control and Prevention at Roswell Park, explains that “treatment is very nuanced at this point and it is only potentially disease modifying, not curative.” She adds, “there is no current recommended outpatient treatment.” Inpatient treatment is recommended for COVID-19 patients who require supplemental oxygen.
Currently, Roswell Park is treating cancer patients under our care who have tested positive for COVID-19 with appropriate therapies that have shown promise in recent studies, which are determined on a case-by-case basis. Marissa Walsh, Pharm.D, BCPS-AQ ID, says “our physicians are deciding on whom to start treatments based on a) need for hospitalization, b) ability to enroll in clinical trials, and c) possible underlying medical conditions or medications which may limit or negatively interact with currently investigated treatment options.”
While a curative treatment for COVID-19 has not yet been discovered or produced, hospitals worldwide are conducting research in pursuit of an effective treatment strategy. As studies are published, the literature is evaluated by Roswell Park’s team. Upon evaluation, additional factors are considered before determining a course of treatment, including the “small sample sizes reported, lack of consistent outcomes … and overall lack of long-term data,” according to Dr. Walsh. With each new treatment strategy comes a host of potential risks, which must be measured against possible benefits for each individual patient.
At Roswell Park, we have also committed ourselves to investigating therapies for COVID-19. Igor Puzanov, MD, MSCI, FACP, is leading a collaborative study to learn more about the effects of sarilumab on inflammation and cytokine storm caused by COVID-19. This trial allows patients at Roswell Park and three other local healthcare institutions to participate in an international study of this drug. Additional collaborative studies for COVID-19 and other diseases are anticipated through this network of clinical researchers led by Roswell Park and in collaboration with the University at Buffalo.
We are committed to working collaboratively with our local referring physicians and colleagues to limit the impact of this disease on not only our shared patients, but also on our community. As more information becomes available each day, it is vital to remain up-to-date. To keep an eye on what Roswell is doing to advance the treatment of COVID-19, visit roswellpark.org/coronavirus.
The NIH has been compiling recent articles into one hub for COVID-19 related research – for the most recent worldwide developments and discoveries, visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/research/coronavirus/.
Roswell Park to Offer Convalescent Plasma to Patients with Severe COVID-19
Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center plans to offer convalescent plasma — in this case, plasma from the donated blood of healthy individuals who have had COVID-19 but have now fully recovered and cleared the virus from their bodies — to patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19 through an expanded access program authorized by the U.S. FDA.
There are currently no approved treatments for COVID-19. Based on the experience from the COVID-19 epidemic in China, experts believe that patients with this disease may improve more quickly if they receive plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19.
The plasma used as part of this program will be made from donated blood containing antibodies that may neutralize SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Medical oncologist George Chen, MD, and Joanne Becker, MD, Clinical Chief of the Division of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Director of the Roswell Park Donor Center, are leading the effort at Roswell Park. The Mayo Clinic is the coordinating center for this program nationally.
“Everything we know about COVID-19 is very recent and fast-moving, but there’s early evidence to suggest that this approach can be clinically beneficial for patients with severe COVID-19,” says Dr. Chen, Associate Professor of Oncology in Roswell Park’s Department of Medicine. “It’s basically a kind of passive immunization designed to bridge patients over until their own immune systems kick in and generate long-term antibodies against COVID-19.”
Healthy individuals who have had and recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to donate blood products to assist this effort. Donors must meet standard criteria for blood donation; be able to provide documentation that they were infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19; and have been asymptomatic for at least 14 days. All plasma donations for this program will be conducted by appointment only. Those who are interested in donating plasma for this effort should first complete our online questionnaire at forms.roswellpark.org/covid-plasma-donation.
The Roswell Park Alliance Foundation has established a fund to support programs, including this effort, that address the highest-priority needs in our response to COVID-19. For more information, go to rideforroswell.org/covid-19-response-fund.