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Clinical Trials to Study Use of Low-Dose Radiation for Treatment of COVID-19 Infections

By HospiMedica International staff writers
Posted on 07 Jul 2020
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Image: Clinical Trials to Study Use of Low-Dose Radiation for Treatment of COVID-19 Infections (Photo courtesy of National Institutes for Health)
Image: Clinical Trials to Study Use of Low-Dose Radiation for Treatment of COVID-19 Infections (Photo courtesy of National Institutes for Health)
Two clinical trials are underway to find out if low-dose, whole-lung radiation in the form of X-rays can effectively treat patients who have acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) as a result of COVID-19 infection.

Previous studies have shown that low-dose, whole-lung radiation in the form of X-rays can effectively treat severe pneumonia with minimal side effects. Some patients diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia will experience worsening disease that can become very serious, requiring the use of a ventilator. This is caused by inflammation in the lungs from the virus caused by overreaction of the immune system. Decades of science have shown that low-dose radiation can elicit an anti-inflammatory immune response from the immune system.

In studies by The Ohio State University (Columbus, OH, USA), patients will undergo a single treatment of whole-lung radiation to target and reduce pulmonary inflammation associated with COVID-19 infection in two separate phase 2 clinical trials. For their study, researchers will give a form of radiation therapy that uses high-energy X-ray beams to target the lungs and reduce inflammation caused by the COVID-19 virus. Usually, it is given at considerably higher doses to treat cancers.

The first trial called PREVENT is a national trial involving up to 20 additional hospitals across the US for COVID-19+ pneumonic patients who do not yet require mechanical breathing intervention (ventilator) but are experiencing severe respiratory distress. The second trial, VENTED, is for patients who are critically ill and on a ventilator, and will be administered in a COVID-19-only containment area and with a single machine not used for standard oncology care. Patients will be monitored before and after treatment to better understand the molecular biology behind disease treatment and response. Scientists will use results from this study to determine if there is sufficient evidence of clinical benefit to warrant a substantial phase 2 randomized clinical trial.

“There is a substantial overlap between proinflammatory cellular reactions that occur in COVID-19 patients and those suppressed by low-dose radiation. Hitting that infection with low-dose radiation could be an effective anti-inflammatory therapy to reduce inflammation and improve respiratory challenges associated with COVID-19 pneumonia, providing patients with critical symptom relief and giving them a better opportunity to recover from these sometimes life-threatening infections,” said Arnab Chakravarti, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at The Ohio State University, who is leading the studies.

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