- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 17, 2020

A drug meant to battle prostate cancer could be used as a treatment for patients infected with the coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced over the weekend.

The VA is launching clinical trials to determine if the drug degarelix - manufactured under the trade name Firmagon - can be used to improve the outcome of almost 200 male veterans who have been hospitalized with COVID-19.

“Veterans who have contracted this virus are in need of immediate care,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in a statement. “This trial is an important step in advancing knowledge of a potential treatment for those infected with COVID-19. We are here to do everything in our power to preserve and protect life.”

Degarelix is used to treat advanced cases of prostate cancer by rapidly - but temporarily - suppressing the body’s production of male hormones, which can fuel the cancer’s growth. Scientists believe the hormones trigger the production of a protein that the coronavirus relies on to enter lung tissue.

Hormone levels in the patients with COVID-19 will return to normal at the end of the treatment period, VA officials said.

The treatment, however, is not considered suitable for women. Researchers believe the drug may have the opposite effect on them by increasing the production of the protein that allows the virus to enter the lungs, officials said.

The West Los Angeles VA Medical Center is leading the trial. The study also involves VA medical centers in New York City and Washington state.

Researchers expect to complete the clinical trials in about four months, VA officials said.

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