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Clinical trials in Colorado are developing new ways to fight COVID-19

May 4, 2020
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Aurora, Colo. (May 4, 2020) – In Colorado, clinical trials to study the COVID-19 virus and drugs to treat it have opened at record pace, and some are already helping the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identify possible treatments. This important research is possible through the academic medical center partnership between UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus. Though clinical trials normally take three months or longer to receive approvals and begin enrolling patients, some COVID-19 trials opened in about a week.

“The COVID-19 epidemic came upon us very quickly. It’s been something that’s really had an impact on our community. Many of our community members have become sick, and the University of Colorado Hospital and University of Colorado School of Medicine have played a very big role in providing our patients with access to cutting edge treatments for COVID-19 through clinical trials that have been conducted here,” said Dr. Thomas Campbell, Professor of Medicine-Infectious Diseases at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

Remdesivir is a medicine that targets the virus directly, inhibiting the ability of the virus to grow. UCHealth and CU have been part of multiple clinical trials of the drug, which received emergency approval from the FDA late last week to treat COVID-19.

Upcoming trials will examine the use of hydroxychloroquine and ruxolitinib. The aim of these drugs is to reduce patients’ dangerous inflammatory response to the virus. Sarilumab is another drug being evaluated, and CU Anschutz is part of a multi-center clinical trial that is evaluating sarilumab in patients with severe or critical COVID-19. Earlier findings showed sarilumab wasn’t making a significant difference in patients with more moderate COVID-19, but that it might help patients with severe or critical COVID-19 infections.

“There’s so much we have to learn about this disease,” said Dr. Thomas Flaig, Vice Chancellor for Research for CU Anschutz. “I think as you watch the news reports and even the medical reports, you might see a shift in how we think about this from one week to the next. For example, the role that thrombosis or microclots might be playing in the lung has become a bigger consideration in the last several weeks. In fact, we are starting a trial this week that will investigate the use of a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, for treatment of patients who have COVID-19 and severe respiratory failure. We will continue to get new preliminary reports which we will need to formally investigate.”

University of Colorado Hospital was the first in Colorado to transfuse patients with convalescent serum, a transfusion containing antibodies donated from someone who has recovered from COVID-19. UCHealth has now treated more than 70 patients at 7 hospitals with convalescent serum, and the health system is participating in a clinical trial to study outcomes of patients who received this treatment. Dr. David Beckham, an infectious disease expert at UCHealth and CU School of Medicine, is leading the study.

“It’s just great to be part of these efforts to quickly identify COVID treatments. We’ve got a well-established system to use clinical trials to study new drugs, and that traditional system that’s been in existence for a long period of time is now being applied very rapidly to this. What it’ll do is give us clear data, not anecdotal data, but a structured way to say, ‘Is this drug effective, and is it safe?’”, said Flaig.

UCHealth and CU research teams are currently developing additional clinical trials which could launch in the coming weeks.

About UCHealth

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. UCHealth includes 25,000 employees, 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth is dedicated to providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. Offering more than 150 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

About the University of Colorado School of Medicine

Faculty at the University of Colorado School of Medicine work to advance science, improve care, and teach and train the next generation of health care providers. These faculty members include physicians, educators, and scientists at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital and Children’s Hospital Colorado on the Anschutz Medical Campus, one of four campuses in the University of Colorado system.


Jessica Berry
Senior Media Relations Specialist
University of Colorado Hospital
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