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Protecting cancer patients from COVID-19

A new clinical trial led by Ottawa Hospital researchers focuses on stimulating the immunity of cancer patients, to prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses that could cause delays in treatment.
By: Heather Marie Connors
July 22, 2020
Photo provided by the Ottawa Hospital

Dr. Rebecca Auer, a surgical oncologist and cancer researcher at the Ottawa Hospital, is overseeing a Canada-wide clinical trial that seeks to safeguard cancer patients from COVID-19 by boosting their immune system. With an effective vaccine likely months or even years away, cancer patients are among those who require extra protection right now, not just to prevent COVID-19, but to ensure the continuation of cancer treatments.

The trial will take place later this summer at nine cancer centres across the country. Patients involved in the study will be given doses of IMM-101, a biotherapeutic that has been shown to activate the body’s first line of defence, including the cells responsible for preventing bacterial and viral infections.

“We think harnessing innate immunity could be one of our best weapons for fighting COVID-19 — and could easily be adapted to tackle future pandemics,” says Dr. Auer.

Other methods of priming the immune system, such as the use of a live virus vaccine, cannot be employed when a person has cancer. IMM-101 is the alternative Dr. Auer and her team chose to study, because it has been found to activate the innate immune system without the presence of a live virus. If successful, the treatment could benefit anyone with a weakened immune system, currently vulnerable to COVID-19.

Source: Ottawa Citizen

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