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Karmanos Cancer Institute Begins Clinical Trials of a Drug Treating COVID-19

Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit is all set to start clinical trials of a drug that could potentially treat COVID-19. This drug has been formulated through a series of lab experiments and trials at Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.  This drug development is a joint study of the Karmanos Cancer Institute and Karyopharm Therapeutics Inc.

This oral drug is named “selinexor” (commercially named as XPOVIO®) is approved for treating relapsed cancer or refractory multiple myeloma patients by the FDA.

Dr. Asfar Azmi is an assistant professor and co-leader at the Tumor Biology and Microenvironment Research Program of Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine. He is also the director of pancreas cancer research initiatives by the Karmanos Institute. This drug is developed as a joint effort of all these institutions.

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Dr. Azmi shares his views on “selinexor” being an effective COVID-19 treatment drug as;  “Proteins move between different compartments of the cell and their exact location is critical to their proper function,” said Dr. Azmi. “Most of the genome surveillance and tumor suppressor proteins are exported out of the cell nucleus using an exporter called exportin 1 (XPO1). Every protein carries a barcode called nuclear export signal (NES) that is recognized by XPO1 causing the export of the cargo. XPO1 is hyperactivated in several pathologies including cancer and inflammation. This excessive XPO1 activity causes unusually high export and incorrect localization of tumor suppressors and genome surveillance proteins leading to their inactivation and tumor growth. Viruses that cause influenzas, H1N1 and SARs-COV2 similarly hijack the nuclear transport machinery. This makes XPO1 a vital component of viral replication and a valid therapeutic target.”

The institute will soon start the clinical trials of selinexor to potentially treat COVID-19 will patients at 40 international destinations. The trials are only five weeks away and all eligible candidates who wish to be a part of this trial must confirm their status by getting tested positive for SARS-CoV2. They should be hospitalized, with the severe onset of coronavirus symptoms such as fever, cough and breathing difficulties. They must give their written consent to be a part of this study, within the first 48 hours of their hospitalization.

Jeffrey Zonder is the Principle Investigator for these selinexor trails. He said that;

“The fascinating thing about this trial is that we are able to apply information learned about the drug’s effect on tumor cell biology to the treatment of deadly viral infections using lower doses of the drug than we typically use to treat cancer.”

Dr. Zonder has also been the principal investigator for a number of other studies on multiple myeloma and a co-researcher for testing and trial of a drug treating Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

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Gerold Bepler, the president and CEO of Karmanos Cancer Institute shares his gratitude that he is proud of the institute’s work and contributions from the other institutions on finding a treatment for the deadly COVID-19. He also congratulated the team and hopes that it would finally develop a drug to beat the infection.

Selinexor is a treatment medicine for cancer. This drug disrupts the essential proteins of the virus and blocks the viral replication both in vitro as well as in vivo. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect which suppresses the coronavirus like respiratory viruses in animal testing models. Previous studies revealed that selinexor like inhibitors can suppress coronavirus like viruses (SARS, MERS) and reduce their virulence. For this reason, it has been selected to test against the new strain of coronavirus, SARs-COV2