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Lowering androgen may protect against Covid-19

Thursday May 7th, 2020

Androgen-deprivation therapy given for prostate cancer may be protective against Covid-19 for these patients, researchers say today.

The virus partially depends on an androgen-regulated gene, TMPRSS2, which encourages tumour progression in prostate cancer.

Certain androgen-deprivation therapies reduce levels of TMPRSS2, so Professor Andrea Alimonti and her team at the Universita della Svizzera Italiana, Switzerland, investigated whether androgen-deprivation therapies can protect patients from Covid-19 infection.

The study is published in Annals of Oncology today (7 May). The team used information on 4,532 men in the Veneto region of Italy, and found that prostate cancer patients on androgen-deprivation therapies had a four-fold reduced risk of Covid-19 infection compared with patients who did not receive this therapy. Also, if they did become infected, the virus was less severe.

The researchers discovered that overall, male cancer patients had a 1.8-fold increased risk of Covid-19 infection compared with the general male population.

But among prostate cancer patients on androgen-deprivation therapy, fewer than expected developed Covid-19 infection and none of them died.

“Patients with prostate cancer receiving androgen-deprivation therapies had a significant four-fold reduced risk of Covid-19 infections compared to patients who did not receive androgen-deprivation therapy,” said Professor Alimonti.

“An even greater difference was found when we compared prostate cancer patients receiving androgen-deprivation therapy to patients with any other type of cancer; there was a more than five-fold reduction in risk of infection among the prostate cancer patients on androgen-deprivation therapy.

Editor-in-chief of Annals of Oncology, Professor Fabrice Andre, said: “The study does not provide a definitive conclusion about the role of androgen-deprivation therapy in patients infected with Covid-19, and this class of drugs should not be used for this purpose until prospective trials have confirmed its efficacy.”

Montopoli, M. et al. Androgen-deprivation therapies for prostate cancer and risk of infection by SARS-CoV-2: a population-based study (n=4532). Annals of Oncology 7 May 2020; doi: 10.1016/j.annonc.2020.04.479

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Men's Health | Pharmaceuticals | Respiratory

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