As of this morning – Monday June 8 – the current recorded case count for COVID-19 (coronavirus) in the UK has hit 286,194 with 40,542 deaths.

AstraZeneca says new analysis shows that its Bruton’s tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitor Calquence (acalabrutinib) cut markers of inflammation and improved clinical outcomes of patients with severe COVID-19 disease.

The peer-reviewed case series of 19 hospitalised patients with COVID-19 disease – published in the journal Science Immunology – and severe hypoxia and/or inflammation describes the effects of Calquence administration in patients with severe respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The findings show that all but one patient had increasing oxygen requirements at the time of treatment initiation, and all but four were on high-flow oxygen or invasive mechanical ventilation.

According to the researchers, the oxygenation and clinical status of most patients on supplemental oxygen 'improved relatively rapidly following acalabrutinib initiation, which was temporally associated with a normalisation of inflammatory markers'.

Also, while patients on mechanical ventilation had a more variable clinical response to the drug, improved oxygenation in half of these patients allowed them to be extubated.

It is thought that cytokine storm is a major pathogenic mechanism of respiratory illness in these patients, and evidence suggests that dysregulated BTK-dependent lung macrophage signalling mediates this cytokine storm and plays a role in COVID-19 pneumonia, the firm noted.

“The science supporting investigation of the use of Calquence in patients with severe COVID-19 is strong,” noted José Baselga, executive vice president, Oncology R&D, at AZ.

“The encouraging preliminary data in this case series has informed the initiation of global Phase II trials, notably the CALAVI programme. We look forward to completing recruitment and obtaining data in these trials as soon as possible to further our understanding of what this potential treatment could mean for patients.”