Prostate cancer drugs could be used to treat Covid-19 because it stops the virus infecting lung cells, a study has found.
The research, published by Imperial College London and University of Essex scientists last week, looked at an anti-androgen drug – also known as a testosterone blocker – used to treat advanced prostate cancer, called enzalutamide.
Enzalutamide reduces levels of one of the proteins used by coronavirus to enter the lung cells, called TMPRSS2, in the lab and could be used to treat Covid-19 patients, they found.
Male sex hormones, or androgens, increase levels of TMPRSS2 in several tissues such as the prostate. But prostate cancer drugs block androgens and reduce levels of TMPRSS2.
Professor Charlotte Bevan, from Imperial College London, called for ‘further clinical investigation’ into prostate cancer drugs and ‘other drugs we can test that could be useful in the Covid-19 effort’.
She continued: ‘As we have learnt from cancer, it is important to have a range of drugs available in the armoury. And drugs that are tried-and-tested and approved in other diseases have the advantage that they can be re-purposed in this way relatively quickly.’
Dr Greg Brooke, from the University of Essex, explained: ‘Men are more likely to become seriously unwell and die from Covid-19 compared to women. This suggests the male sex hormone androgen may play a role in SARS-CoV-2 severity.’
Covid-19 has been shown to attack multiple organs in the body but is most destructive to the lungs.