Immunological manipulations to lessen the severity of COVID-19

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The pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has placed an unprecedented burden on healthcare systems around the world. In patients who experience severe disease, acute respiratory distress is often accompanied by a pathological immune reaction, sometimes referred to as ‘cytokine storm’. One hallmark feature of the profound inflammatory state seen in patients with COVID-19 who succumb to pneumonia and hypoxia is marked elevation of serum cytokines, especially interferon gamma, tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 17 (IL-17), interleukin 8 (IL-8) and interleukin 6 (IL-6). Initial experience from the outbreaks in Italy, China and the USA has anecdotally demonstrated improved outcomes for critically ill patients with COVID-19 with the administration of cytokine-modulatory therapies, especially anti-IL-6 agents. Although ongoing trials are investigating anti-IL-6 therapies, access to these therapies is a concern, especially as the numbers of cases worldwide continue to climb. An immunology-informed approach may help identify alternative agents to modulate the pathological inflammation seen in patients with COVID-19. Drawing on extensive experience administering these and other immune-modulating therapies, the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer offers this perspective on potential alternatives to anti-IL-6 that may also warrant consideration for management of the systemic inflammatory response and pulmonary compromise that can be seen in patients with severe COVID-19.

Read the full article published originally in the Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer

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