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Experimental Cancer Drug Inhibits SARS-CoV-2 Virus from Infecting Cells and Replicating

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 22 Sep 2020
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A team of scientists has discovered that an experimental cancer drug called AR-12 inhibits the SARS-CoV-2 virus from infecting cells and replicating.

Scientists from the Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center (Richmond, VA, USA) are now taking steps to develop a clinical trial for testing the novel oral treatment. AR-12 has been studied extensively by the scientists as both an anti-cancer and anti-viral drug, showing it to be effective against viruses including Zika, mumps, measles, rubella, chikungunya, RSV, CMV, drug resistant HIV and influenza. Their recent research has demonstrated that AR-12 is highly effective against SARS-CoV-2.

“AR-12 works in a unique way. Unlike any other anti-viral drug, it inhibits cellular chaperones, which are proteins that are required to maintain the right 3D shape of viral proteins. The shape of the virus is critical to its ability to infect and replicate,” said Paul Dent, Ph.D., at Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center, who is a also professor in the VCU Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Universal Corporation Chair in Cancer Cell Signaling and a member of the Cancer Cell Signaling research program at Massey.

One of the cellular chaperones inhibited by AR-12 is GRP78, which is essential for the reproduction of all viruses. GRP78 acts as a sort of cellular stress sensor and is required for the life cycle of all mammalian viruses.

“AR-12 is an oral therapy that has been well tolerated in a prior clinical trial, so we know that it is safe and tolerable. Most COVID-19 drugs are given intravenously, so this would be a unique therapeutic option and potentially suitable for outpatient therapy, similar to the way one would take an antibiotic,” said Andrew Poklepovic, M.D., medical oncologist, member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program and medical director of the Clinical Trials Office at Massey, who is leading the efforts to translate these exciting findings into a clinical trial.

Poklepovic hopes to begin enrolling patients in early 2021, but several milestones remain. The team must develop the clinical trial protocol, receive approval from the FDA to test AR-12 on COVID-19 patients and manufacture enough of the drug for the trial.

“We are working to submit the required information for FDA approvals, and we are also in discussions with a local pharmaceutical company to manufacture the drug for the trial,” said Sebti, Ph.D., associate director for basic research and member of the Developmental Therapeutics program at VCU Massey Cancer Center, and professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the VCU School of Medicine. “We are hopeful that AR-12 will emerge as a treatment option for patients suffering from COVID-19, ultimately saving lives and contributing to the global pandemic solution.”

Related Links:
Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center

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