Severe COVID-19 Outcomes May be Improved With Bevacizumab

Findings included a reduction in fever, an increase in white blood cells and a sharp decrease of c-reactive protein (CRP) levels.

A recent study taking place in Italy and China, led by investigators from the Karolinska Institutet, has found that the anti-cancer therapy bevacizumab may hasten recovery and reduce the rate of mortality in people with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Bevacizumab has been used to treat different types of cancer since 2004, and works by reducing the formation of blood vessels by inhibiting the growth factor signaling protein vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

It has been seen that patients with a severe infection of COVID-19 have related symptoms to VEGF like excess fluid and disorganized blood vessels in the lungs, as well as elevated levels of the growth factor.

The investigators behind the study recruited 26 patients from two hospitals in Italy and China who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and displayed symptoms of difficulty breathing, pneumonia and low blood oxygen levels. These patients were then retrospectively compared to 26 other patients with similar symptoms who received the current standard of care.

The recruited participants received standard, care as well as a single, low dose of 7.5 mg/kg bevacizumab. Findings showed that within 24 hours of receiving their therapy, the patients had a significant improvement in their blood oxygen levels compared to the control group. After a 28-day follow-up, 92% of the treated arm no longer needed an equal amount of oxygen support as when they began the trial.

Additionally, none of the participants receiving the therapy died, and 65% improved to such a degree that they were able to be discharged from the hospital in comparison to only 46% of the control arm being discharged. The duration of oxygen-support was also shortened to a median of 9 days for the bevacizumab arm.

"To reduce COVID-19 mortality, we aim to develop an effective therapeutic paradigm for treating patients with severe COVID-19," Yihai Cao, a professor of vascular biology at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology at Karolinska Institutet and a co-author on the study said. "Our findings suggest that bevacizumab plus standard care is highly beneficial for patients with severe COVID-19 and should be considered as a potential first-line therapeutic regimen for this group."