26 May 2020

A new UK study is being launched to examine how patients who receive stem cell transplants for blood cancers and blood disorders react to severe COVID-19 infection.

The study is being launched by IMPACT, a partnership of organisations that is jointly funded by Anthony Nolan, Leukaemia UK and NHS Blood and Transplant. It will be led by Dr Giovanna Lucchini from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The team will monitor how adult and child recipients of stem cell transplants react to severe COVID-19 infection by profiling how their immune systems respond. They also hope identify potential biomarkers which could be used to predict how the virus will affect a patient’s recovery and survival.

Once researchers have a better understanding of how these high-risk patients react to the new coronavirus, it could provide the scientific basis for using targeted therapy to treat them more effectively.

Current data suggests that 15% of people infected with COVID-19 will need to receive hospital treatment, including respiratory support.

However, patients taking immunosuppressant medication for conditions like graft vs host disease (GvHD), could also suffer from additional complications that could lead to patients taking longer to recover.

IMPACT Medical Director Professor David Marks said the study aims to recruit between 20 and 60 stem cell transplant recipients in IMPACT centres across the UK.

To be eligible, patients must have tested positive for COVID-19 and have symptoms that require oxygen treatment. Participants will need to have a blood sample taken within 72 hours of receiving oxygen. This will be analysed for immunological biomarkers, including white blood cell numbers, and signalling molecules that control the immune system.

Patients will then be examined at 30 and 100 days following their COVID-19 diagnosis to assess the progress of their recovery.

Prof Marks said: “This non-interventional study will recruit adults and children from UK IMPACT centres and may help us better understand the mechanisms of lung dysfunction in this patient group, and the factors that are associated with an adverse outcome.

“Transplant patients who are infected may react differently to the normal population; there is already some evidence that this infection is very serious after a transplant. Understanding the changes in cytokines may enable us to offer these patients targeted therapies with the goal of improving outcomes.”

Anthony Nolan’s chief executive Henny Braund said: “This important study has the potential to offer a promising step forward in how we understand the effects of the COVID-19 respiratory illness on patients with weakened immune systems.”

NHS Blood and Transplant’s James Griffin, consultant haematologist at NHS Blood and Transplant and University Hospitals Bristol added: “IMPACT has enabled the trial to be set up and opened in an incredibly short time and should result in quick recruitment. This is novel research led by an expert team at Great Ormond Street Hospital and will provide important data to help inform stem cell transplant doctors and patients during the current SARS-CoV2 pandemic.”

Source: Anthony Nolan



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