The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Research and Innovation

Testing the efficacy and safety of drugs to reduce the severe immune overreaction seen in COVID-19 patients

16 March 2021

Leeds BRC together with Leeds CRF and Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust have been involved in several nationally prioritised, urgent public health research studies related to COVID-19. These included CANCOVID and RUXCOVID, which are both global phase three randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled multi-centre trials sponsored by Novartis.

These studies aimed to test the efficacy and safety of the drugs ruxolitinib and canakinumab which are typically used for treatment of inflammatory disorders. In this trial, they were utilised as a way to reduce the severe immune overreaction that was seen with COVID-19 infection which resulted in patients developing pneumonia, acute respiratory distress syndrome and needing intensive care support including breathing support by mechanical ventilators.

The COVID-19 research team in Leeds was able to recruit the first patients globally into the RUXCOVID study and the first UK participant for CANCOVID trial. This was achieved despite the team continuing to recruit into other COVID-19 trials, including the nationally mandated study RECOVERY and another commercial trial COVACTA.

The COVID-19 research team was rapidly assembled using research staff with different specialist backgrounds. Together, they showed great agility and flexibility to quickly set up the studies and initiate the recruitment.

 All commercial studies have now been successfully completed. The efforts by the Leeds team have been recognised, including the local PI, Dr Savic, as an author on two publications that have been produced following the trials. The findings of COVACTA trial have been published in New England Journal of Medicine. Dr Savic has been invited to be a senior author on the manuscript describing findings of RUXCOVID study which will shortly be submitted to the Lancet.

COVID-19 in patients with primary and secondary immunodeficiency: The United Kingdom experience